The Rev. J. Charles Carrington's sweet singing voice was more than loud enough to fill the old movie house that is now the Zion Temple Fellowship Church. But few people heard that sound yesterday.
Mr. Carrington, who leads the 500-member congregation in the 5400 block of Reisterstown Road, had organized a lunchtime prayer service as "an alternative" to the Million Man March, which he did not support. He sent invitations to 75 churches and expected a crowd of 500.
Twenty people showed up, most of them members of his own nondenominational, Christian church.
"Not Farrakhan, but Jesus," he sang at the beginning of the gospel service. "Jesus has the solution to every problem we face."
The low attendance suggests the support for the march in Baltimore's black community. Though the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Urban League and other organizations wouldn't endorse the march, blacks who could not or would not attend expressed hope that it might spark positive change.
Linwood Davis spent yesterday guarding the parking lot at Kennedy Krieger Institute. He said he liked the idea of the march but preferred to work. "I wouldn't have got the same pay if I had gone," said Mr. Davis, a Baltimore resident.
Joseph Wesson, a Red Cross worker, attended Mr. Carrington's prayer service. He said the march conflicted with his religious principles.
"I wish the people who marched in Washington the best, and I sincerely hope good will come from it," said Mr. Wesson, 32. "But they are calling that 'A Day of Atonement' The only atonement that matters was the one 2,000 years ago by Jesus Christ."
Around the city and particularly at Mr. Carrington's church, the chief objections were not to the march itself but to Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader who proposed the event, and his statements about Jews, women and Catholics. The speeches in Washington mirrored what Mr. Carrington and his father, Johnny C. Carrington Sr., said from the pulpit: Men need to take greater responsibility for their wives, children and friends.
"It's not the duty of a real father to run when the fire is hot," said Johnny Carrington, a minister and recovering alcoholic. "It's the duty of the real father to throw water on the flame."
Mr. Carrington, 32, worked long hours to promote the service. His invitations asked people to go to work yesterday to demonstrate "how real men take responsibility." In recent days, he said, he became "a talking head," appearing on local TV and calling Minister Farrakhan a "divisive cult leader."
The message resonated with Mr. Carrington's most devoted parishioners.
"What Farrakhan says goes totally against what we believe in as Christians," said Chester Reed, 39, who handed out programs at the door. "God is not a racist."
The pastor seemed disappointed by the small crowd, but said his opinion wouldn't be changing. He has been vilified for his beliefs. Messages on his answering machine denounce him as a "lackey" and "Uncle Tom" for not supporting the march.
"That stuff doesn't bother me," he said. "You can have only one person come out to this service, but if that person stands for what is right, then this is a success."