As pastor at the First Church of Wyandanch Ministries for 28 years, Michael V. Talbert led a community of faith with love and devotion, encouraging his congregation to live a life of integrity and prosperity.
He left an indelible mark on a community he discovered by chance.
“It was a divine appointment,” said Gina Talbert of Port Jefferson Station, his wife of 19 years and acting superintendent of the Wyandanch Union Free School District.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Talbert was attending a Christian conference in Delaware in 1992 when an acquaintance convinced him to visit the then-named First Baptist Church in Wyandanch, which had been looking for a pastor. After speaking to the congregation, Talbert was invited back to formally interview and was soon given the job he held until his death on March 23.
Talbert, a father of four, died of pneumonia at Stony Brook University Hospital, his family said. He was 63.
“This man had so much wisdom,” said the Rev. Monte Malik Chandler, 49, of Valley Stream. “I would take him out to dinner once a month because I knew that I would gain some kernel of wisdom from him and it would all be worth it.”
Talbert’s reach extended far beyond Wyandanch. Last year, he traveled the country to talk about his book, "Speaking to the King in Me." He also served as an adviser to President Bill Clinton on crime bill legislation in the 1990s, traveling to Washington, D.C., to serve on advisory committees, Gina said.
But Wyandanch was always his adopted home.
“He was a great preacher,” said his former secretary Lillie B. Ervin, 73, of Wyandanch. “He was a teacher. He expounded on the word. He would preach in such a way that people would readily understand him.”
Born April 29, 1956, in Independence, Louisiana, Talbert was the youngest of 11 children. He played basketball at Louisiana College, where he received a degree in criminal justice in 1978. He continued his education at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and then returned to Louisiana to serve as a minister at a hometown church before moving to Long Island. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of theology from the Canadian International Chaplaincy Association in 2014.
Talbert was consecrated to the office of bishop in 2004 because of his local and international impact in the church. He was the bishop of Kingdom Builders International Ministries, where he trained church leaders and pastors. He supported missions and churches in Kenya, Africa, Haiti and India.
Talbert was a pillar of the Wyandanch community, extending his reach to academics and athletics, where he served as school board president and volunteer assistant for the Wyandanch High School boys basketball team, his wife said.
As pastor, he preached the importance of economic independence, encouraging his congregation to purchase homes, Gina said.
He started Faith Community Builders, which made homeownership possible for families of all income levels by connecting parishioners with banks that helped them reach that goal. He also rented homes to families at a modest rate, Gina said.
“He’s kept a lot of roofs over people’s heads who would otherwise have left Long Island or couldn’t have made it here,” Gina Talbert said.
In addition to his wife, Talbert is survived by daughters, Alayna and Abigail, and sons, Michael Jr. and Aaron, all of Port Jefferson Station; sisters, Pauline Talbert, Elizabeth Self and Debra Phillips, all of Louisiana; brothers, Lawrence Talbert, Ezekiel Talbert, Alex Talbert and Curtis Grant, all of Louisiana.
A memorial processional through Wyandanch took place on Wednesday and he was buried at Pinelawn Memorial Park and Arboretum in Farmingdale.