They hunkered down in front of the TV for the Super Bowl, just another crowd of football fans munching chips and waving plastic cups -- except that they were smack dab in, of all places, the middle of a Baptist church.
The 500-member Faith Baptist Church of Glen Burnie figured they couldn't beat Super Bowl fervor -- so they'd sanctify it. Three big-screen TVs and a table of snacks provided the atmosphere, and church members crowded into the fellowship hall for both Super Bowl watching and Bible-reading.
"We can stay home and watch the game, or we can go with the flow and direct it to church," explained Steve Haley, who works with the church's education program.
"This way we can enjoy the game and still have a service. And it also is a chance for people who feel nervous about coming to church to visit and see that Christians have fun like anybody else."
Families, children and young people gathered late Sunday afternoon for an indoor church picnic, then settled down to watch the game.
At halftime, they paused for an informal church service of a short talk and some songs, then returned to the TV screensfor the second half.
Scott Mulahollen, 19, a business major at Anne Arundel Community College, thought the church party was a great idea. "It's awesome!" he said.
His buddy Bill Atkinson, also 19, crunched on some chips and waved at the screen.
"Why should we miss it?" he demanded. "It's better to have about 30 of us kids come to church to watch the game than being at a party where everyone gets drunk. Here we have good fellowship."
A youngster in a Redskins shirt tore by, heading for a room set aside for the children to play in.
Smiling church ladies, some looking a little doubtful about the wholeenterprise, replenished soft drinks and a table of snacks.
Soundsfrom the three TVs, donated for the evening by Stiller Appliance of Glen Burnie, muffled the shouts of viewers.
Matt Dillard of Glen Burnie said he and his wife, Marianne, never had been to a church football party before.
"Instead of skipping church," he said, "you getto be here. It doesn't make you feel so bad. We usually do come to church on Super Bowl Sunday and end up missing half the game. This is nicer."
The Rev. David Lee, church pastor, chuckled and thanked the Super Bowl people. "They were gracious enough to time the game to fit into our evening worship service," he jested. "We enjoy being together, and this is just another evening for the church to get together."
And, of course, holler over the game. Close your eyes and you could've been in anybody's living room, or any noisy bar -- without the booze.
"All I'm saying is, if they win, he'll retire!" insisted one young man to his colleagues, pointing at a favorite player.
"Somebody ought to replace him, I'm tellin' you man," retorted another.
Over in front of another TV, a little quiet betting was going on -- but not for money.
Doug Stewart, a Glen Burnie resident, explained his vested interest in the outcome of the game. He and his two adult sons -- both Giants fans -- don't bet for money, he said, but over household chores.
"If I lose, I have to do the cooking for Sunday dinner. If they lose, they have to," said Mr. Stewart. He smiled wisely. "I haven't lost too much."
The Giants beat the Bills, 20-19.