For the final Sunday of Union’s Chapel’s summer season, Rev. Dr. Aliya Browne took the pulpit to talk about temptation, whether it be an extra apple fritter from Back Door Donuts, or the lure of money, fame and career ambitions.

Dr. Browne is both an ordained minister and a medical doctor, currently serving Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, specializing in integrative cardiology, combining Western medicine and spiritual practices for a holistic view of what she calls spiritual health. She is also the current president of the Union Chapel Board of Trustees.

Dr. Browne’s sermon on Sunday focused on the idea of the devil, both how he exists in the Bible and in popular culture, and the ways that temptation can lead individuals further from Jesus’s protection.

Kamla Branche, Union Chapel Trustee treasurer, introduced Dr. Browne. — Jeanna Shepard

In Dr. Browne’s case, that temptation, she admitted, takes the form of two apple fritters at Back Door Donuts.

The devil is a heavy topic, Dr. Browne said after the service, but one made lighter by a few donut jokes.

For Dr. Browne, her ministry and her medical practice go hand in hand.

“As a physician, my primary goal is to help folks not only improve their physical life but also their spiritual and emotional life,” she said. “Many people who come into the hospital with symptoms of heart disease have spiritual or emotional issues. They think they’re having a heart attack but we check them out and they’re actually okay physically, they’re just having psychosomatic symptoms. It’s a physical response to other anxieties.”

In other cases, she said, emotional problems lead individuals to find comfort in food, leading to heart disease. To that end, her apple fritter metaphor contained an ulterior motive: to get congregants thinking about healthier choices as the summer comes to a close.

“It’s also a true story,” she said, referring to her weakness for apple fritters.

Choir performs in front of the organ pipes. — Jeanna Shepard

Union Chapel serves a wide variety of year-round and summer residents, making accessibility a top concern, Dr. Browne continued. Pop culture references — including an obligatory The Devil Wears Prada reference during the sermon — and intentional language, whether it be “the Devil” for older audiences or “influencers” for younger ones, help ensure the lesson speaks to a wide audience, she said.

“Everybody’s trying to be an influencer,” Dr. Browne said. “This whole idea has become such a big thing.”

Part of not giving into temptation, she continued, is the ability to rise above undue influences.

“The word choice was absolutely intentional,” she said. “When I’m crafting the message, I want to use words everyone can understand.”

For those inside the church, Dr. Browne also intended her sermon to be a call-to-action at the end of a busy season.

Greeting parishioners after the service. — Jeanna Shepard

“We had a very challenging start to the summer,” Dr. Browne said. This year marked the return of in-person services, and that transition brought technical difficulties, Covid cancellations and general growing pains, she said.

“I wanted to remind myself and others that we always have to be on our game, to continue doing the work and not be discouraged.”

Despite these challenges, Union Chapel produced a full summer lineup, with headliners including former mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms, Sen. Raphael Warnock and Rev Otis Moss III.

Dr. Browne said she was also particularly excited by this season’s musical accompaniments, directed by organist William D. Peek Jr.

Most important, she added, was having everyone back worshipping together, unencumbered by reduced capacities or mask mandates.

“It’s been a blessing,” she said. “We’re so thankful for the year-rounders that come week after week, and this year we’ve loved opening our doors to others, too.”

Throughout the summer, Dr. Browne has worked to keep one message consistent.

“It all starts with getting closer to God,” she said. “When you strengthen your relationship with God, that lets you do everything else.”