It was minutes before the 4 p.m. kickoff on Sunday. The blue glass doors to Jericho City of Praise in Landover swung open, ushering out thousands of worshipers who headed for parking lots they shared with fans filling Redskins Stadium.
But despite previously expressed fears by church officials, nobody called interference. On Sunday, the Washington Redskins played a home game, and parishioners in the 10,000-seat church next door worshiped in what turned out to be an uneventful day in Landover when faith and football shared the same ground.
"All I can say is to God be the glory," said the Rev. Betty Peebles, pastor of Jericho City of Praise who last week expressed concerns that she and leaders of her church had been shut out of a plan crafted by the Washington Redskins and county police to ease traffic congestion.
Peebles was worried that members might not be able to come and go and that fans might be diverted from the church's lots. About 7,000 people routinely attend services on Sunday, and the church usually can park about 2,000 cars of football fans in its lot, even when church services are being held.
Football is also a regular money maker for the church. Since the stadium opened in September 1997, tens of thousands of dollars have been dropped into Jericho's coffers by Redskins fans who pay $15 a car to park.
"We didn't see any major problems," Peebles said. "If there were any small glitches, we will work them out with the Redskins. We have access to the officials with the Redskins to work them out."
Lt. Edward Burke, commander of the Prince George's County police special events unit, said: "It seems that every thing went well on Sunday. The fans helped to make it work. It was a big team effort on everybody's part."
The new Redskins' traffic plan routed thousands of fans to the other side of the Capital Beltway and away from Jericho to parking at US Airways Arena. Only cars with special permits were allowed into the 22,000 spaces on the stadium grounds.
The church lot also was used on Sunday by cash parkers, though there was no estimate on how many parked there. The church has been able to earn about $30,000 a home game by charging fans for parking.
Prince George's police officials said there had been a spirited competition between Redskins parking attendants and church attendants on Arena Drive, also known as Bishop James Peebles Drive for Peebles's late husband.
But on Sunday, county police said that there were no problems and that most of the spirit came from fans who cheered for the Redskins, who beat the Carolina Panthers in a heart-stopping finish.
Peebles preached a sermon on Sunday entitled, "The Baptism of the Holy Ghost."
She said that the entire flap over parking has been blown out of proportion and that the goal of her ministry is to seek and to save the lost.
"We are about soul-winning first," she said.
CAPTION: A Jericho City of Praise guard directs traffic Sunday on Arena Drive.