Film Lifestyles

Art imitates life for Augusta area minister cast in feature film

(Featured photo is of Claude Harris Jr. in his film role)

An Augusta minister fills a familiar role in a new film.

“I play a singing pastor in one of the church scenes,” said Claude Harris Jr., a campus pastor and music minister at New Life Worship Center, who is featured in the film Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., which will be in theaters April 28.

Harris filmed the part two years ago in Charlotte, N.C. He heard about it through a friend, Jeremy Carr, a John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School graduate turned actor and filmmaker. Carr had asked on social media for people to share some good news, and at the time, Harris had written a song for Christina Bell’s debut gospel album.

Bow Down spent six months on the Billboard gospel chart’s Top 30, and three months in the Top 20, and it was that news that Harris, who uses the name Claude Deuce for his music, shared with Carr.

Seeing Harris’s comment prompted Carr to send him a message. He asked if Harris had ever thought about being in a movie. He had friends working on a project, and they needed a singing pastor.

“It was really easy,” said Harris, who could draw on his own life experience for the part.

Claude Harris Jr. serves as minister of music at New Life Worship Center. Courtesy photo

Based on the book written by Judy Blume Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is a coming-of-age novel about an 11-year-old girl who has a Jewish father and Christian mother and is seeking faith on her own. As part of her journey, she visits three houses of worship including the church Harris pastors, with an African American friend.

Harris has been part of some independent films created by Augusta filmmaker Karlton Clay. He’s played the role of a pastor and has written multiple scores to go along with Clay’s films, but this was the first big studio production Harris had taken part in.

“I’m a sponge. I had a lot of fun just observing the movie set and how things function and how things really go. You never understand what all is going into that one scene,” said Harris, whose time on the big screen was brief, but exciting.

He had the chance to see the film in a special screening last week.

“It was crazy. It was a good feeling to see that on the screen. I was looking at actresses like Kathy Bates and Rachel McAdams and then there was me,” he said. “It was a really cool experience.”

Although he doesn’t have any more films upcoming, he said he’s open for roles.

His next project is a musical one. His album Merrimac Ave. Vol. 1 will be released in June.

One of Harris’s songs from his upcoming Merrimac Ave. release

“Merrimac Avenue was the street I grew up on in south Augusta where all the musical abilities I discovered that I had in that house. I honed and crafted them there,” he said.

The journey to creating the album caused Harris to feel like he was “going back to my roots and the feeling I had when I learned that I could write songs and I could make music. It reminded me of when I first started,” he said.

Harris grew up in church. His parents started New Life Worship Center in 1982.

“At the age of 2 in 1982, they told me I sang the first song,” he said.

At around 15, he knew that music would be always a huge part of his life. He plays multiple instruments including the piano, drums, alto saxophone and bass guitar. He was writing music and trying the songs out on the congregation.

The way they responded to the songs made Harris know “I was onto something.”

Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at

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