Reflections from Rev. Dr. Herbert Ponder on 30 Years at Mount Tabor Baptist Church
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Reflections from Rev. Dr. Herbert Ponder on 30 Years at Mount Tabor Baptist Church

July 2, 2024
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BGAV celebrates with Rev. Dr. Herbert Ponder on the occasion of his 30th anniversary as pastor of Mount Tabor Baptist Church in Richmond, VA. Herbert served as BGAV President last year. River City Faith Network (RCFN), of which Mount Tabor is a member, interviewed him and published the following article in their June newsletter.

As he approaches this milestone, the RCFN had a moment to catch up with Dr. Ponder and reflect on his experiences through ministry in the past few years since Covid and what lies ahead for him after an exciting year of meeting with different congregations and associations through his role as president of BGAV.

Initially, he shared that he is enjoying this current season of graduations and spoke of one celebration for a member of his church who has just received her Doctorate in Education. It was heartwarming to hear from her that she believes “he has always been there for her and that the way he (Dr. Ponder) has ministered to us; that he has no idea of the impact he has had.”Dr. Ponder stated it was so meaningful to him to hear that affirmation from this member, knowing that in this season of beginnings, he made such a difference in someone’s life course and journey.

Dr. Ponder shared that so much has changed in ministry in just these past few years, in his church, the way he ministers to the community, and he touched on the changes in the Church Hill community that now impact Mount Tabor Baptist Church. He is very thankful to his congregation and states the makeup of that group is now wider than it has ever been. They now have members that Zoom in from out of state and even as far as Germany! The church community and deacons have had to reevaluate “how do we count members” and “what constitutes our members” with individuals who are actively following and contributing from many locations outside Richmond. These are questions that they have had to explore as they continue to develop what ministry looks like post-Covid. In addition, Dr. Ponder explained that the most difficult impact from Covid wasn’t Covid itself, but the isolation. They continue to minister through Zoom and do an active Bible study from September through May but have become more flexible with their summer programing to accommodate and go to where people are in their connection to the church. Just last Friday, a longtime member who is now a faithful Zoom participant, turned 100 years old. Many from the church participated in a drive-by parade to celebrate this incredible milestone with her and her family. He is looking forward to this summer and the activities they will do through group outings such as bowling, Top Golf, libraries, and cookouts to develop fellowship among members outside of the traditional gatherings and Bible Study.

Rev. Dr. Ponder presides over the BGAV Annual Meeting as President in November 2023.

He applauds his church and leadership for being flexible and understanding that “just because this is the way it’s always done” is no longer applicable to connecting with their members. They have sidestepped some of the decision-making processes to try new things and see if they work or not and this flexibility has been beneficial. He believes since many are still trying to find their way back to their faith and community, it is important for churches to extend this grace to members. In addition to being flexible, they also must be adaptive. The Church Hill area in Richmond is changing rapidly. Many ministries and projects that were originally planned are being revisited to ensure that they don’t try to do all things or do more things but focus on doing what you do well through quality over quantity. These new challenges have presented more questions to his congregation and believe this has tied closely with the church’s theme for ministry this past year, “Growing Time.” The church has seen growth, with visitors, activities, and in their community. The process of examining these changes has been enlightening to him and the congregation.

Dr. Ponder has applied for a sabbatical for the first time in his career. The application process is intense and serves as a reflection of all the ministries in a changing environment and the best ways to address and plan for those dynamics. It is a shared assessment with your church leadership, and through his application he discovered he is looking forward to this opportunity more and more. In fact, next year’s theme for the church will be Reset. After getting through the challenges and opportunities of Covid, he believes many individuals and especially pastors would benefit from a reset. He reflected on the early days of Covid when he would do daily Zoom prayers with the congregation from a desk in his bedroom with the interior of the church set up as his background. He came to call that period Bedside Baptist, and though it sounds restful, was the complete opposite.

Now that he has concluded his service as president of BGAV, his biggest takeaway was the skill of listening. He says allowing others to share about what they do and what they are struggling with allows him to hear what they need and to provide more than just a simple answer. We are blessed to have had the opportunity to listen as he shared these reflections with us on this anniversary, and we are so grateful to capture a moment of perspective from Dr. Ponder as he continues to work in ministry among us here in Richmond. Congratulations from all of us here at the River City Faith Network!

This article was written by Jo Ellen Schneider and originally published by River City Faith Network.

Last Updated:    
July 2, 2024