Three years ago, members of Congregation Ner Tamid, a small Reform Jewish congregation, asked Christ Lutheran Church if they could worship at the church, which sits on the corner of Dallas Highway and West Sandtown Road in west Cobb. The church agreed, and the relationship between the two congregations has grown ever since.
Monday is the beginning of Passover, which commemorates the exodus by Jews from Egypt. On Tuesday, Christ Lutheran Pastor Rusty Edwards will sit down with members of Rabbi Tom Liebschutz's congregation and participate in a Jewish Passover Seder. At the dinner, the story of the exodus is retold.
Edwards, 55, intends to share a hymn he has written, "The Flame," at the beginning of the Seder. For the two congregations, it is another sign of how much they share in common and of their level of mutual respect.
"What we hope to accomplish is that this is just one more way of showing our appreciation to the church as a whole - in this case the pastor and his wife - by having them there," said Liebschutz, 73. "We share so much in common that the pastor can read a creation of his own, which is in a church hymnal, in the context of a Passover Seder."
Edwards, who has a love of music, said his hymn is based on the symbolism of light, which shows up in both faiths as an important symbol of God's love.
"We both believe that one light shared can make a lot of other lights shine," Edwards said.
Congregation Ner Tamid is considered the first established Jewish congregation in west Cobb. It was formed about four years ago. Members began meeting at subdivision clubhouses and other spaces in Cobb. Then, one of the congregants knew Edward's wife and requested if members could use the church as a temporary synagogue.
The roughly 50 current members of Congregation Ner Tamid usually gather to worship on Friday or Saturday evening, once a month. Christ Lutheran worships at 8:45 a.m. and 11 a.m. Sunday.
Laura Catlin, 31, of Marietta, is president of Congregation Ner Tamid's board of directors. She has acted as a go-between for the congregations and said there was virtually no conflict between the two congregations at the beginning of the relationship.
"Pastor Rusty is just incredibly open-minded and really enjoys learning about different religions," Catlin said. "He has a really varied background in religious studies, so he understood a lot of about Judaism before going into it. His congregation, accordingly, was very receptive of us being there."
The only major changes made to the church for Jewish worship is that an ark holding the Torah is brought in the church's sanctuary, where it sits on the altar. Congregation Ner Tamid has also been allowed to hang a series of artwork on the church's wall that depict Jewish objects.
In recent months, the friendship between the congregations have grown even closer as a result of a combined fundraising effort to raise money for bed nets for Africans dealing with malaria, and the rebuilding of the church's playground with help from the Jewish congregation.
Edwards said he and his 700-member church has been delighted to offer assistance to members of Congregation Ner Tamid, which is continuing to grow. He said he will do for as long at it needs help.
"For me, it's been kind of like watching your children grow," he said. "There's such a joy in watching them."