Thelma Buckner, notable COGIC pastor, singer and philanthropist, dies at 89

Thelma Battle Buckner (1932-2021), gospel artist and long-serving pastor at Gospel Temple Church of God in Christ of St. Paul, Minnesota.
Thelma Battle Buckner (1932-2021), gospel artist and long-serving pastor at Gospel Temple Church of God in Christ of St. Paul, Minnesota. | Aretta-Rie Johnson

Thelma Battle Buckner, a long-serving pastor and singer, known for her charitable work in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, died at age 89 after a battle with congestive heart failure.

A native of Mississippi, Buckner served as pastor of Gospel Temple Church of God In Christ of St. Paul, Minnesota, for 15 years, later becoming pastor emeritus of the congregation.

Labeled by one local media outlet as a “‘granny’ to many” due to her extensive efforts to help disadvantaged children, which included a daycare and a camp, Buckner died on June 11, with a celebration of life service being held at Gospel Temple Church on Friday.

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Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter told Twin Cities Pioneer Press that she fondly remembered the quilting shop that Buckner launched in the area.

“When my father-in-law was in his senior years, in his twilight years, she quilted, as a ministry to him and gave him a gift of a quilt that he cherished and that we now keep and cherish,” said Carter.

According to an obituary emailed to The Christian Post by a representative of Gospel Temple Church, Buckner was born in Mississippi in 1932, being one of 13 children.

She graduated from Saints Industrial Library School in Lexington, Mississippi, in 1949 and married Arthur Buckner the following year. They separated 10 years after that.

Buckner developed a prolific music ministry with her family, eventually winning the 1989 Minnesota Music Award for Best Female Gospel Vocalist.

The musical tradition continues in her descendants, as one of her grandchildren, Arthur “L.A.” Buckner, topped the iTunes jazz chart last year, according to the Star Tribune.

Later she became a licensed missionary through the Minnesota Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of COGIC and by COGIC International. In 2002, Buckner received a doctorate of divinity from the Minnesota Graduate School of Theology.

After her own children had moved out of her house, Buckner became a licensed daycare provider and served as a foster parent, eventually opening the Buckner Emergency Shelter, based at her own home.

According to her obituary, Buckner leaves behind eight children, 28 grandchildren, 41 great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild, as well as three surviving siblings.

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