Rev. Wilbert D. Talley reaches 50th anniversary milestone at King William church

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 5/5/2022, 6 p.m.
“I never expected to reach this kind of milestone.”

“I never expected to reach this kind of milestone.”

The Rev. Wilbert David Talley, 78, made this statement after he became the newest member of the informal 50-year club for ministers.

Known as a leader in promoting the adoption of Black children and as a sociology professor and administrator at Virginia Union University, Rev. Talley has held the pulpit at Third Union Baptist Church in King William County since 1972.

That’s nearly five times the national average for pastors, an increasingly aging corps, whose stay with one congregation is now around 11 years, up from four years in 1992.

Rev. Talley’s long tenure at the church and his contributions to education and bettering the lives of foster children was recognized and celebrated at a banquet April 23 at VUU, his alma mater.

“I’m amazed that I’ve been doing this work so long. It wasn’t my intent or my goal. I’ve been so busy and committed to the congregation, the time has just passed,” said Rev. Talley, the sixth pastor of the 200-member church that was founded more than 150 years ago near the community of Central Garage.

He has no plans to step down.

“I enjoy what I’m doing. I find meaning in it,” Rev. Talley said. “I am committed to continuing to do it if the congregation is not ready for me to sit down or move on. I haven’t felt the urge to retire. I’m planning to continue as long as I am able.”

In addition to leading the church, Rev. Talley was the first president and is still board chairman of the 37-year-old Virginia One Church One Child, a program that his wife, Jane Crittenden Talley, helped begin as a city social worker.

Since 1985, Rev. Talley has campaigned through the nonprofit organization to get Black churches across the state engaged in recruiting families willing to adopt a child. At one time, more than 300 churches were involved in a program that has been credited with helping to provide stable homes for children who have been removed from their parents.

Rev. Talley eagerly joined the board and became influential in spreading the adoption gospel, traveling across the state to get churches involved. The Talleys, who had three of their own children, also adopted a fourth child.

The Talleys have a long connection to VUU. As a student, Rev. Talley was the quarterback of the VUU Panthers football team and acted in school productions, which is where he met his future wife, who also was in the drama club.

After earning his master’s of divinity degree at Howard University, Rev. Talley returned to VUU to serve as dean of students in 1969.

Along with teaching sociology courses during a 35-year career at VUU, Rev. Talley also served in a variety of other posts, including vice president of student affairs, university pastor, assistant dean of the School of Theology and even athletic director.

Rev. Talley is grateful for the opportunities he has had to make a difference.

“I have always been of the opinion that if we do our best to serve,” he said, “the best will come back to us in whatever form.”