“Views from the Pews” is a news series featuring articles from members of St. Mark’s.

My earliest memory of church is when we first moved to Arlington in 1978.

My family started going to St. Bartholomew’s on Davis. I remember is for one simple fact. Every Sunday we sat in the same pew and every Sunday this same old lady sat next to me. I dreaded going every week, because I had to sit next to this woman every Sunday and she smelled musky. As much as I had tried to get my parents to let me sit somewhere else, I failed. Well, finally a day came when the woman was not at church, and this made me extremely happy not to have to sit next to the woman I thought to be smelly.

As the Altar party started to process, I started to smell that familiar, musky smell.  My happiness abated for fear that the woman was just late and soon she would be sitting next to me. To my astonishment, she never materialized, yet that smell I had become accustomed to was in the air. I soon realized that what I had been smelling this whole time was nothing more than incense used during service.

It took me years to realize that I was passing judgment on someone without knowing all the facts. God does not prohibit us from observing others, but we must do with compassion and remember, “with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get” (Mt. 7:2). So let there be a lesson learned here, though we may be quick to judge those around us, know the truth before you pass judgment.

Written by Thomas Parkey