Six people were injured outside a historic church in Annapolis last night when a limb broke from a tall tree and fell on them during a picnic, authorities said.

The incident occurred about 7 p.m. at Mount Olive AME Church on Hicks Avenue in the western end of the city and involved a limb that might have been as much as three feet around.

Those injured, five children and an adult, were eating dinner at a cookout near the tree, apparently in connection with a vacation Bible school that was held at the church, according to Capt. Joseph Martin of the Annapolis Fire Department.

The most seriously injured was a 47-year-old woman. She was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore with neck and back injuries, Martin said. She was not identified immediately, but a church official said she might have been a church trustee.

Three children, whose ages ranged from 6 to 12, were taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center, he said. They suffered cuts and other minor injuries.

Two other children were treated at the scene and released to their parents, Martin said. He said parents and children attended the cookout.

None of the injuries was believed to be life-threatening, Martin said.

The Rev. Goodwin Douglas, the church's presiding elder, said the falling branch also "flattened iron benches" in the churchyard.

The church, which has about 400 to 500 members, according to Douglas, traces its history to the 1870s.

The Fire Department spokesman estimated that the tree, which stands between two church buildings, was "at least 100 feet tall," and Douglas said he believed it might have been more than a century old.

"It was a big tree," Douglas said. "A very old tree."

It was not clear why the limb suddenly broke from the tree trunk, about 30 feet up, yesterday evening and plunged into the picnickers.

But Douglas and Martin said they understood that the tree might have been struck recently by lightning.

Douglas said the church provided an evening Bible school, with sessions beginning about 5:30 p.m. One neighbor said he believed that exercises were held at the church yesterday to mark the completion of the summer Bible program.