He sings at weddings. He sings at funerals. He maintains a remarkable music library, the better to provide appropriate music. When Marvin Ponder directs a medley of songs with "choir in the pews," the thematic development, contrasting key signatures and tempos are so thoughtfully designed that they seem to be effortlessly executed. Behind the scenes, Pastor Ponder is a consummate planner. With rare care he combines musicianship and his pastoral role.
Now in his fourth decade as an associate pastor at the University Church, Pastor Ponder prepared for the pastorate at Union College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in theology in 1966, and at Andrews University, which awarded him a master of divinity degree in 1968. With experience as a pastor in Texas and a chaplain at Union College, he arrived at Loma Linda University Church in 1976. Since then, he has served in almost every capacity assigned to an associate pastor, giving leadership in campus ministry, children’s Sabbath Schools, worship planning, administration, and pastoral care.
Currently Pastor Ponder’s responsibilities center around pastoral care and member nurture. He participates in church member visitation and personal ministry to members in times of crisis, illness, or bereavement. He coordinates with Pastors Dan and Betsy Matthews and Roger McQuistan, who focus on senior visitation, as well as with other pastoral staff who share hospital visitation assignments.
In a church replete with committees, Pastor Ponder oversees several. He is the pastoral advisor to the membership committee, which visits all new members who are transferring to or joining the church by baptism or profession of faith. He also advises the home communion teams, who take communion to home-bound members, the church welcoming committee, the worship committee, and the vesper committee.
Music has always been important to Pastor Ponder. At the age of six he was singing and accompanying himself on his ukulele. He switched to a guitar in his teens. During college he toured with a gospel quartet, “The Knights of Harmony,” singing gospel and barbershop quartet music. In the 60s, he teamed up with Herman Harp to form a folk-singing duo, "The Discords," which toured colleges and folk music festivals.
In 1974, the duo joined Gene and Marie Jennings of Nashville, Tennessee. The resultant gospel group, "Ponder, Harp & Jennings," toured and recorded 10 gospel albums, two of which won Angel Awards.
Combining his dual roles—musician and pastor—Pastor Ponder is making a distinctive and enduring contribution to the ministry at the Loma Linda University Church. Pastor Marvin and his wife Shirley have 3 grown children, Chris, Jon, and Jennifer.