Religious Leaders Stressing Unity
As the holiday season arrives, Temple Kol Emeth continues its ecumenical outreach to the East Cobb community.
"Music speaks louder than words," Rabbi Steven Lebow said at the start of last week's Thanksgiving Ecumenical Service at Temple Kol Emeth, and he kept his remarks brief.
The emphasis was for the musical traditions of many faiths to sweep across the audience filling the East Cobb synagogue.
Particularly moving was the combination of "For the Beauty of the Earth" and "Yih'yu L'ratzon" ("May the Words") performed by the choirs of Kol Emeth, Eastminster Presbyterian Church, Transfiguration Catholic Church and the North River Church of Christ.
Also participating were leaders representing the Islamic Center of Marietta, Masjid Al-Muminum and, for the first time, a segment of the Hindu community. Syam Yellamraju of the India American Cultural Association interpreted the words of a Hindu singing ensemble.
"During this time of year, our communities need to bring out the best of all of us," North River Church Pastor Jeff Hickman said during his reflection. "Even though we are from different faiths, we can come together and make that faith real."
The Eastminster bell ringers, a children's blessing for animals, and a message from the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta added to the expansive feel of the service. Afterward, audience members shared homemade desserts and fellowship, and young people left messages on the 2010 Wall of Word to summarize their thoughts on the service.
Lebow came up with the idea of having an ecumenical service six years ago after working on a Habitat for Humanity project with the Islamic Center and Imam Amjad Taufique.
"After 9/11 it became clear to me that the community had to stand together," Lebow said. "We are children of one God, of one community."
Their respective worship communities are involved in year-round joint efforts in addition to Habitat, including prayer events and study groups for youths to learn about one another's faith traditions.
In his short sermon near the end of the program, Lebow underscored the unity message, first asking immigrants to stand, then second-generation immigrants, then the descendants of immigrants.
The audience sighed with delight and applauded as everyone eventually stood.
"Americans will never be divided; they will always stand together in peace," Lebow said. "We all came in different ships, but we ended up in the same boat."