The victims of the Oklahoma City bombing were in the prayers of those who gathered yesterday at Vietnam Memorial Park in Westminster for a local ceremony observing National Day of Prayer.
"Many of us have come here today with heavy hearts due to the tragedy in Oklahoma," said Joe Ready of Liberty Church of Maryland in Westminster.
"I feel a special urgency today to pray for all the grieving families in Oklahoma and their churches," Mr. Ready told the group of about 50 people who stood in front of the memorial to Carroll veterans who died in the Vietnam War.
Mark Wadel, a chaplain at the Carroll County Detention Center who organized the prayer service, said the devastation in Oklahoma forced him to reflect on events closer to home.
He recalled the explosion in a Westminster neighborhood in January that destroyed one home and damaged 65 others.
"It was a tragedy we were spared; no lives were lost," Mr. Wadel said. He is president of the Westminster Ministerium, a group of local clergy who meet monthly to discuss issues affecting area churches.
Yesterday's event marked the fourth year that Carroll County has observed National Day of Prayer, established by a joint resolution of Congress in 1952.
Marcia J. Rinehart, who organized the local prayer services for three years, said county employees inspired her to become involved in the project.
"A number of county office people had come to me and said, 'I can't have a picture of the cross in my office or a Bible on my desk,' " Ms. Rinehart said.
"This is the day to say I'm a Christian, I believe in God and I can speak it."
To open yesterday's service, Mr. Wadel invited participants to "join our hearts together in prayer for this county, this state and this country."
State Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Westminster Republican, said the service demonstrated the right to religious freedom enjoyed by Americans.
"This is a day to cherish the freedom we have to stand here today to lift up the name of our heavenly father," he said.
Some participants spoke of a collapse of morals in the country and prayed for God to guide the nation's leaders in their decisions.
"We ask God to work through the executive and legislative branches of our government and the judiciary, because that's a sick place, too," said Judy Bixler of Westminster.
Ms. Bixler said she was referring to court decisions that allow abortion and impose restrictions on prayer in public schools.
"The courts legislate what God has called sin," Ms. Bixler said. "And we see the product of it in what's going on in our society now."
The prayer service closed with participants singing "America the Beautiful."