On the last day of June, Union Chapel opened its doors for the season. Each summer the church holds Sunday services led by pastors from around the country. This season’s schedule features pastors from Harlem, Atlanta and Chicago, among others.

Linda Smith, of the Vineyard Trust, manages events at the chapel and said she is often reminded of the church’s origins, which date back to 1870.

“This church began because the black folks came here for the summer and weren’t allowed at the Campground’s church. They needed a place to worship,” said Ms. Smith.

On Sunday, people of all denominations, races and creeds came to hear Rev. Cathlin Baker’s sermon: How Deep Is Your Love? Dr. King’s Levels of Love and Today’s Climate Emergency.

Reverend Baker’s sermon was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 1962 sermon, Levels of Love. — Jeanna Shepard

Reverend Baker is the minister of the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, and the church’s first female minister in its 300-year history. Traditionally, Union Chapel invites a local pastor to open the season, and Reverend Baker’s connection to the chapel is a strong one.

“The church I serve, the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, is truly a sister church to this chapel,” she said in her opening remarks. “We are the off-season church for many of you, and we share your commitment to humanism, and to celebrating the great diversity of God’s creations. We also share your music director and your alto.”

Music weaved its way through the service. Crowds filed in at 9:40 a.m. to listen to the organ prelude. The organ has been central to the Union Chapel since it opened. In 1924 the church installed a new organ which is still in operation today. In his welcoming address, Richard Taylor, president of the chapel trustees, urged churchgoers to take notice.

“Our organist is a magician. You gotta miss a few notes, so people will hear that there’s a problem. He does a wonderful job masking the work the organ needs. We need people like you to give so we can fix it.”

Reverend Baker’s sermon was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 1962 sermon, Levels of Love. It explored applying Dr. King’s teachings to our current climate crisis. Reverend Baker drew connections between Dr. King’s sermon about overcoming racism by breaking down the various types of love between humans, to how humans must learn to feel about Mother Earth.

“It is important to take a moment here to honor the ways that we do enter into a more authentic relationship with the earth and its creatures and yet still push us toward an even deeper love,” she said.

The beauty of the Vineyard was not forgotten.

“Consider a favorite watering hole, like Ice House Pond, a beach or picnic spot or that place in the shade of a certain tree. Our lives can feel deeply connected to a sense of place — like the land where our family came from. Or a place like Martha’s Vineyard that is treasured as a place of retreat for generations of family. The earth carries precious memories for us. The earth brings us comfort and joy. This love is almost like a romantic love. It draws us closer to nature, but still we are loving the earth for the familiarity and pleasure it brings us.”

Reverend Baker then took the audience through deeper and deeper levels of love, as outlined by Dr. King, from philio love (love between friends) to humanitarian love and finally to the highest form, agape love.

“Agape love can well up within us and lead us to embrace God’s creatures as true siblings. This love gives sacrificially without awareness of cost, and this love pursues justice, but it is also deeply humble, for it recognizes the power and enormity of the natural world. Our best love for this earth, agape love, redefines the notion of dominion, and enables us to find our proper place.”

To end the sermon, Reverend Baker left congregants with the message to love more deeply and selflessly. “Go forth and love boldly and broadly, empathetically attuned to all of God’s creation. And in doing so may we find a wider community, a bigger family.”

Lisa Boccani, a nurse on Nantucket, had never been to Union Chapel or to the Vineyard before this weekend. “I was at the hostel, and this nice young lady on the bed across from mine said ‘hey there’s this church, they have all these great speakers.’ So here I am. Wow. I’m happy to be here. That was beautiful. What a sermon.”

As Ms. Boccani and the rest of the audience filed out, former sexton Bill Davenport, who has served the chapel for over 20 years, gazed up to the church balcony.

“Every pew up there is on a different step, so that’s a lot of steps,” he said, his arms filled with hymnals. “I have two metal hips and a pacemaker, so I can’t walk all the way up there anymore. But I still help out how I can.”

Summer services take place every Sunday through Sept. 1. On Sunday, July 7 Robert Charles Pozen, former chairman of MFS Investment Management and a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, will present the lay sermon, followed on July 14 by Rev. Elizabeth Walker, pastor Roxbury Presbyterian Church.