Your Honor

Your Honor 20160126It was a busy week. Holy Week – the days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. There was plenty that needed to be done, including worship preparation, sermon writing, hospital visits and taking communion to our shut-ins. So I was in the church basement at my previous church in the sacristy, where we kept the wine and wafers for communion. As I was pouring the wine from a bottle into the little container for the home communion kit, my phone rang. I took the old flip-phone out of my pocket, and saw on the small window that the phone call was coming from the Federal Courthouse.
Did I panic? No – I got calls from the Federal Courthouse all the time – that is where my wife worked in downtown Columbus. How nice to get a call from my wife. So I put down the wine, flipped open the phone, and said, “Hi Hon!”
Dead silence. No response…for several seconds.
Then, a man’s voice spoke – “Is this Pastor Woodward?” I knew the voice. That voice belonged to the Honorable John D. Holschuh, a federal judge, who also happened to be my wife’s boss. I had just called a federal judge, “Hon!” I am thankful that it is not against the law to call a federal judge “Hon.” Thanks be to God for that! The judge was calling me to thank me for a CD I had made for him. After I got over the embarrassment of my greeting, I was thankful that he called to say thank you.
Judge Holschuh didn’t let me forget that event for years. I learned over those years that even though this judge held an important position in society, he was not someone to be feared or thought to be unapproachable, but a person who cared deeply for the people who stood before him in the court, as well as with his co-workers and staff. I had to visit with him several times for various events where we were both present. I had the privilege to sit in during a naturalization ceremony the judge led when over 50 people from many different countries became citizens of the United States. I heard stories of the effort and energy he expended in making sure every person who stood before him , both defendants and prosecutors and legal counsel, were treated with honor and respect. The more I knew the him the more I admired him.   
Judge Holschuh passed away five years ago. I consider it an honor that my family and I got to know him.
After his death, my wife was asked by a good friend and colleague of Judge Holschuh’s to come and work for him. That is Federal Judge Walter Rice who serves here in Dayton, Ohio. I have quickly come to understand that Judge Rice and Judge Holschuh are cut from the same cloth – faithful to the law and compassionate to those who enter their courts. While he has yet to call me, “Hon,” he always addresses me as “Reverend.” It is a sign of respect, and I am touched by that.
Judge Rice is an active member in the Dayton community, seeking justice and equality for all. One area in particular that Judge Rice has led the way is as an active advocate for ex-offenders, seeking ways they can  be re-acclimated  into the community.  In his 46 years as a judge, I have heard that Judge Rice truly believes he has met very few bad people – just a handful. The rest of those who have stood before him in the court are good people who made a bad decision. He seeks the good in those he meets and treats everyone with respect.
I consider it an honor that Judge Rice will be present at Epiphany Lutheran Church on January 31st to speak about ex-offender re-entry into the community and how people of faith can help. In addition to the judge, Rabbi Bernard Barsky (retired from Beth Abraham Synagogue in Dayton), and ELCA Pastor Tracy Paschke-Johannes will participate in this conversation.
I think the title “Your Honor” applies to perfectly to these two judges – these two men. They have embodied what it means to treat people with honor and respect. We, as children of God, as individuals and a church and a community are called to embody that as well.
Isn’t it interesting that the first syllable of “Honor” is “Hon?” Maybe I wasn’t off base when I answered the phone that day. “Did I say, ‘Hon?’ I meant to say ‘Your Honor!”
Pastor Charlie

2 Responses to “Your Honor”

  1. Wilda Overly says:

    I’m sorry to miss hearing Judge Rice, his Dragon seats are next to mine. He is a very good friend of my friend, Mary Lou Riley. Mary Lou attended the Centerville Community Band Concerts with me in December, she also loves the Summer Musicals.

    See you in March

  2. Phyllis scholp says:

    Pastor Charlie, I like your style. This article is a gentle reminder to attend the presentation Sunday with your personal story and humor in the mix.

    Grateful for your ministry at Epiphany.

    Phyllis Scholp

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