Eating ice cream without using hands or utensils wasn't exactly the cleanest way for Terrie Latimer to bond with her 14-year-old daughter, but it certainly produced a lot of laughs during a Halloween party at the First Baptist Church of Suitland.

"I love it," said Latimer, who along with her daughter Janay attended the party the church held last Thursday to give Suitland residents a chance to celebrate in an unghoulish way. No ghost, goblin or devil costumes were allowed at the church, one of several in the region that held upbeat, spiritual alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating.

The ice cream-eating contest was one of the highlights of the party, where more than 150 people, including many adults, decorated pumpkins, painted faces and feasted on pizza. It attracted more community residents than church members.

At University Park Church of Christ, adults munched on hot dogs and children competed for cupcakes during a game of musical chairs.

"This was our first year doing this, but everybody had a good time," said Ken Roberts, a deacon at University Park. In addition to leaving the Hyattsville church with bags of candy, the children were reminded that ghosts and goblins are fiction, but that God is real.

-- Hamil R. Harris

Vantino Johnson, 5, dressed in a Batman costume, enjoys some pizza at the First Baptist Church of Suitland's harvest time celebration last week. At right, Charm Williams, left, Brenae Garrett and Sherie Miller decorate their pumpkins at the church, which held the event for community members as a religious alternative to secular Halloween traditions.