Historically, the African American church has been at the forefront of every social, political, and economic development for Blacks. It is through the church that social organizations were formed, providing people of color with proper burial services, a place for recreation, and so forth.
Traditionally, men have been the pulpit forerunners. Today, women across the globe are making their way from church mothers to the front lines of the pulpit. Dr. Willa Grant Battle, founder (along with her husband Rev. Dr. Walter L. Battle) and pastor of Grace Temple Deliverance Center, is one of those pioneers in ministry.
At the age of 94, it is safe to say that no other pastor in the Twin Cities has been an active pastor longer than she has, celebrating 60 years as pastor of Grace Temple Deliverance Center (GTDC), located at 1908 4th Avenue South in Minneapolis.
Today, the non-denominational, Pentecostal church is much different from its humble beginnings in the storefront building the Battles rented on Milton and Rondo in St. Paul. In 1951, they purchased a church from the Mormons located at 247 North Grotto Street (currently Gospel Temple Church with the street renamed in honor of Rev. Dr. Walter L. Battle). Elder Dwight Buckner, Sr. is now the pastor.
Grace Temple Deliverance Center provides spiritual renewal, alcohol and drug counseling, street ministries, clothing ministries, food shelters for the homeless, and annual toy donations for underprivileged children. Dr. Battle not only worships as a faithful servant to the Lord but also labors in a commitment to educate and restore the broken. While a champion for a worthwhile cause at home, her ministry extends itself outside of the Twin Cities to Haiti, Africa and the Philippines.
In 1957, the Battles founded a mission school and mission-feeding center in Haiti that today remains one of Haiti’s longest operating missions. The Haitian mission has expanded over the years to include the following: 50 churches and 10 schools (including The Doris Akers Memorial High School and Willa Grant Battle Elementary School), and The Good Samaritan Hospital, which opened in 2002 and remains the only hospital in Boutilier, Haiti.
Dr. Battle says, “The mission work in Haiti has taken a great deal of our time and attention. We were able to establish goat, food and medical projects. We ministered to people both physically and spiritually with food and medications.”
Asked how she started a venture in Haiti, she responded, “God gave me a vision of a poor, needy people that spoke a language different from that of my own. He showed me the people and their surroundings and told me they were in the West Indies. We set out to find these people.
“Upon arriving in Haiti, the burden that I had carried in my heart for several months was lifted.” Since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Dr. Battle has built four homes for families and has adopted 11 orphans. All mission proceeds raised by GTDC go toward the support of these causes.
Dr. Battle received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern College in 1956, where she majored in theology. She continued her graduate education at the University of Minnesota, graduating cum laude with a Master’s in American studies with minors in Afro-American history and music history. A true advocate for education, Dr. Battle pursued her Ph.D. degree from Trinity Seminary in Newburg, Indiana. The topic of her dissertation was “Black Churches in Minneapolis.”
In 2004, Dr. Battle received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota. She is the first African American in the history of this university to be bestowed with such an honor. In 2006, she was ordained as a bishop.
Dr. Battle has been a member of many organizations and served on several boards over the years.
Dr. Battle and Grace Temple Deliverance Center will celebrate their Pastoral and Church Anniversary beginning Friday, November 9 with a musical at 7:30 pm. On Sunday, November 11 morning worship begins at 11:30 am where the speaker will be Rev. Wesley J. Thomas of Los Angeles, CA. The Founders Day service begins at 4 pm where the speaker will be Dr. Frank Walters of Summit, NJ.
Musical guests will feature Bishop Stephanie and Rev. Willie Bond with Spirit and Truth Worship Center Choir, Dr. B. Charvez Russell with Greater Friendship Baptist Church Choir, and Sister Lanell Lightfoot.
Information provided by Grace Temple Deliverance Center