TANNERSVILLE, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – We all have talents and hobbies outside of our 9 to 5 jobs. But you may be surprised by what one Pastor in the Poconos can do.

Pastor Thomas Richards leads St. Paul Lutheran Church in Tannersville. Church goers have come to know him over the last 36 years.

“He is supportive, he’s always available to bounce ideas off of. He offers encouragement, both to me and the groups. Those are qualities that are tough to find,” says Matthew Bradley, Director of Music at St. Paul Lutheran Church.

Richards grew up around his local church. At a young age, he got involved in his youth group and church choir.

“It was really the center of my life,” says Pastor Richards.

He went to Lutheran college and became a minister. St. Paul’s has become more than a Church, it’s Pastor Richard’s home.

Richards says, “the people are very, very devoted to serving Christ.”

After Sunday service, Pastor Richard’s takes off his collar and puts on his black belt.

“I have what I’d call old warrior bones!” jokes Richards.

The 67-year-old trades “Pastor Richards” for “Master Richards” several times a week. He goes from teaching about God to teaching Tang Soo Do, a Korean martial art.

Richards says, “one of the things about this is there is always something new to learn.”

Richards holds class in the same building as Sunday service. His first run-in with martial arts started in the ’60s when little Thomas Richards picked up a karate book and was fascinated.

“This book was really really something. I said wow, if I ever get a chance I’m going to study martial arts. And all my friends said ‘get out of here with that karate stuff, what are you kidding me?'” he adds.

The thought settled into the back of his mind. Until years later, when he served as a psychiatric Chaplin.

Richards explains, “and I was doing an intake interview one day and the perspective patient came across the desk and tried to attack me!”

The Pastor joined a karate school and was hooked.

He laughs, “as one of my students said to me, ‘boy back in the day you must have been something'”.

Over time he earned rank after rank.

“I just kept at it. And here 38 years later, still practicing,” Richards says.

Hundreds of students have come through his classes over the years from ages 4 to 75.

He’s climbed the ranks to a sixth degree black belt International Master.

“I’m pleased with what I’ve been able to accomplish,” Richards comments.

But he says his greatest accomplishment is his students.

“I’ve watched many younger kids come up through the ranks. I’ve seen a whole bunch of them reach black belt, it’s been pretty amazing,” says Amanda Cole, student.

Inside St. Paul’s, his students practice board breaking, sparring and stretching.

“You know sometimes if I catch people slacking off… I get on them!” jokes Richards.

Tang Soo Do is a defensive art.. That’s why 7-year-old Jayden Batoon joined the class.  

“What if a bad guy comes into your house and he breaks in? How can you defend yourself without doing karate?!” says Batoon.

But tang Soo Do isn’t like it’s portrayed in the movies.

“We teach martial arts not to go out and hurt people but so we can defend ourselves and become better citizens of the world,” says Cole.

Pastor Richards says it’s about character building, humility, respect, and integrity.

“It’s really exciting to see them learn Tang Soo Do but also get those values and go out and excel in various parts of life and that is a really neat thing,” says Richards.

Richard’s roles as Master and Pastor aren’t all that different after all.

Bradley adds, “he gives all he can to this congregation then also through the karate he gives to the community.”

Pastor Richards says he practices his Tang Soo Do every morning, six days a week. He takes Sunday’s off since it’s the day of rest and you’ll find him in Church.