Karen Abercrombie: Prayer Warrior Onscreen And Off

– By Susan Pierce – 4-4-17




Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie), left, and Elizabeth Jordan (Priscilla Shirer) in a scene from “War Room.”

Guests coming to Scenic City Women’s Network Praise Breakfast expecting to see a gray-haired, 80-year-old whose face bears the lines of life’s experiences, won’t find her. She’s actually a svelte, soft-spoken woman 30 years younger than Miss Clara, the character Karen Abercrombie played in “War Room.”

But even though Abercrombie’s Hollywood transformation was fake, the actress is every bit the real prayer warrior she appeared in the movie.

“I’m absolutely a firm believer in the power of prayer,” Abercrombie said in a phone interview. “My prayer life certainly grew being part of this film. Just doing that film, asking God to help me play this character to the best of my ability, made my prayer life grow much deeper from being part of the whole ‘War Room’ experience.”

Abercrombie is the North Carolina actress who was the breakout star of the 2015 Christian drama “War Room,” directed by Alex Kendrick and co-written and produced by his brother, Stephen Kendrick.

The actress — whose popular character delivers one of the movie’s best one-liners, “In order to stand up and fight the enemy, you need to get on your knees and pray” — will be in town Thursday, April 13, to speak to guests at Scenic City Women’s Network’s annual Praise Breakfast.

“I talk a little bit about everything,” Abercrombie chuckles. “Society tries to tell women who we are and what our value is. We will talk about who women are in God’s eyes. I’ll give a little of my testimony.”

Renee Nail, the network’s executive director, says the organization’s mission seeks to “encourage, equip and energize today’s Christian working women in our city.”

She says as planning began for the breakfast, whose theme is “The Power of Prayer in the Marketplace,” “it became clear that Miss Clara was the obvious person to speak at our annual event.”

During the breakfast, Julie Baumgardner will receive the group’s Lydia Award, says Nail. The award is presented to a Christian working woman who positively impacts lives in her community as well as serves as a source of encouragement to other Christian working women. Baumgardner is president and chief executive officer of First Things First. She writes a Sunday column for the Times Free Press.

“War Room” is the little film that could — a small film by Hollywood standards that cost the Kendrick brothers just $3.5 million to produce. But in its first year in theaters worldwide it earned a whopping $73.7 million, according to internet sources.

In the movie, Abercrombie plays Miss Clara, an octogenarian who is ready to sell her house. She enlists the help of Realtor Elizabeth Jordan (Priscilla Shirer.) Elizabeth’s marriage is on the rocks, and when she fides this to Miss Clara, the older woman urges her to fight for her marriage by praying for her husband.

Miss Clara shows Elizabeth a closet she has turned into her place of prayer, her War Room, as she calls it. As Elizabeth begins to pray for her husband, changes happen in the family dynamics and their relationship is restored.

Abercrombie speaks from personal experiences as to how God has worked in her life.

“My parents were alcoholics; my mother also did drugs. But I had an aunt who was on fire for Christ. She saw that I went to church. When I became a teenager, I walked away from God, but I always felt his arms around me.”

She says she was bitten by the acting bug as an elementary schoolchild, but got serious about acting in high school.

“I couldn’t afford acting lessons. I wanted to take voice lessons, and we couldn’t afford that either, but it didn’t stop me from singing. I learned God will provide whatever it is we need so we can fulfill the purpose he has for us.”

She majored in psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, “but I spent more time auditioning for plays on campus. So I auditioned for a school in New York and went to New York alone. I was 20. I didn’t know anybody, had no money — but again, God provided everything I needed.”

Her career includes credits as a singer/songwriter, Parents Choice Award storyteller and she received the Movieguide Grace Award for her performance as Miss Clara. She has guest-starred on TV shows, played Zelda Molskey on the CBS show “The Inspectors” and played the recurring role of Aberdeen on AMC’s hit “Turn.”

Her current project is “Ciao Bella,” a play she has written, produced and is taking to New York City in June. She plays the lead, a homeless woman who was once a renowned singer and composer, but due to a string of tragedies, she’s homeless and living on the streets of New York.

“But she still composes music,” Abercrombie says of her character, “and as she creates music, the audience will get to hear her as she writes it.”

She says the play was inspired by her own empathy for the homeless.

“I’ve lived in New York City and Los Angeles, and both places have huge homeless populations. At first, I’d stop and give money or stop and pray with them. But I reached a point I found myself just not seeing them anymore. And when I did, I’d think, ‘It’s probably drug or alcohol that got them that way.’

“But we are not in the position to judge anyone. I felt led to write a piece that will open people’s eyes. As her story unfolds, we realize we can be so wrong about what we think. We realize we are so much alike no matter who we are.”

Reservations for the Praise Breakfast are due by Thursday. To register, call 423-698-6262.

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@ or 423-757-6284.


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