For nearly an hour yesterday, a crowd of business people, mothers with toddlers and pastors shared a singular activity: They prayed.
With the courthouse and veterans memorials for a background, 80 people gathered in Westminster's County Park for Carroll's ninth annual observance of the National Day of Prayer.
They had spilled out of nearby offices or had driven several miles. They wore sneakers, oxfords and high heels with their T-shirts, clerical collars and business suits
"God doesn't care what we are doing or what we are wearing," said Jared Davis, 9. "He wants us to pray, and we can pray anytime."
Derick Brown, 10, knew he was there for "a prayer thing" with a theme based on the Ten Commandments, which his mother, Lori Brown, had recently studied with him.
"Prayer is cool," said Derick. "I don't know the commandments by heart, but I just reviewed them yesterday."
Before the first prayer, Derick and Jared ended their lively game of catch in the noon sun. The boys were caught up in songs of praise and petitions for blessings. They fell in with the crowd, raising their hands to the heavens as they joined in the petitions.
"All the gifts we enjoy in this country are from God," said Brown. "We came here to acknowledge those blessings."
Many clutched worn Bibles.
"There is all this talk about government programs that will save people," said Bev Desrosiers of Westminster, whose Bible was at her side. "This book here has all the programs we need."
Heidi Taylor attended the service from Columbia with her 8-year-old daughter, Inga. Taylor adopted the child from an orphanage in the Ukraine 11 months ago.
"I came here to pray," said Inga, who added her prayers would be "so that America does not become as bad a place as the Ukraine."
Each speaker chose one commandment and briefly expounded on the relevance of those ancient laws today. Their prayers ranged from, "Help us as Christians to be the light in your world," from Susan Crowley to, "Straighten us all out, Father," from Mike Davis.
As he prayed, Davis wrapped a firm arm around the shoulders of his 12-year-old son, Matthew.
Many county officials in attendance heard petitions for their guidance. The Rev. Larry Steen of Westminster Baptist Church lectured on the Ninth Commandment, which forbids false testimony. He asked the crowd "to honor those politicians willing to speak for the truth."
The Rev. John Aldrich of Covenant of Grace Church in Reisterstown called for abandoning "materialism that falsely promises happiness. Be content with what you have."
Marcia J. Reinhart, who has organized the local observance since 1992, thanked participants for their prayers.
"I know today that we are preaching to the choir, but we are confessing the sins of a nation and asking for forgiveness," she said.
That so many left their jobs and other activities to devote a lunch hour to prayer was a powerful testament for Connie Bounds.
"There is a power in our numbers," she said. "We need to take a stand and uphold his righteousness in our land."