When singing “Get Out of My Way,” the Rev. Vince Anderson takes no time getting to a growl and a wail. Anderson, the subject of the oft-rousing documentary “The Reverend,” and his band, the Love Choir, have had a 20-year residency at Union Pool, a bar in Williamsburg. And that brassy, organ-banging, sax-honking representative of what Anderson dubs “dirty gospel’’ has been the invocation to Monday evening gatherings.
An acolyte of observational filmmaking, the director Nick Canfield follows Anderson as he jams; cooks pastrami at his home in Queens’s Ridgewood neighborhood; works with teen rappers in Bushwick; and barnstorms with Vote Common Good, an evangelical group focused on energizing religiously oriented voters to support progressive candidates during the 2018 midterm elections.
Fond of caftans and straw hats, Anderson is a big guy with a burly singing voice but a storytelling cadence when sharing the spiritual journey that took him from a Lutheran childhood in California to New York’s Union Theological Seminary. He planned to become a minister but left. (He has since been ordained.)
An early turning point came in college when he crossed a picket line of nuns to see “The Last Temptation of Christ,” with its depiction of “a beautifully human Jesus,” he says.
The defining one came at Union when he crossed the street on, yes, Epiphany Sunday, and entered Riverside Church where the day’s sermon was “The Mystery of Christian Vocation.” The message, he recounts, was, “We’re all called to goodness and justice.” He embraced music as his ministry.
The arrival of Millicent Souris was a boon. Of their first date, she of the equally splendid caftans said, “He’s got no moves. He’s got nothing.” They married in 2018. There are other amusing and thoughtful interviews (Questlove offers some choice words), as well as musings about grace. Canfield’s debut feature is infused with its own measure of that gentling spirit. It is also blessedly low on piousness.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 26 minutes. In theaters.