The spirit of July Fourth was in the air as Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs kicked off its 2022 summer season on Sunday. Amidst patriotic hymns and calls for unity, the sermon was offered by the former mayor of Atlanta, and newly-appointed senior advisor to President Biden, Keisha Lance Bottoms.

At the beginning of the service, Aliya F. Browne, president of the trustees of the Union Chapel, praised the significance of the community gathering to worship, noting that this summer marks the first fully in-person season since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aliya F. Browne, president of the trustees of the Union Chapel, introduced Ms. Lance Bottoms. — Ray Ewing

Ms. Browne introduced Ms. Lance Bottoms as an advocate for social justice, specifically citing her work navigating Atlanta’s pandemic response, as well as her leadership during the civil rights protests in the summer of 2020.

After a rendition of This Little Light of Mine by the soloist Ava Brown, a recently-graduated soprano from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Ms. Lance Bottoms took the pulpit to deliver a sermon exploring her struggle with feelings of inadequacy. In the audience were her husband, sister, mother and four children.

“Despite all these credentials I still struggle with Imposter Syndrome,” Ms. Lance Bottoms told the crowd. “When I ran for mayor It came down like a hammer on my head... Am I enough?”

Ms. Lance Bottoms invoked her difficult childhood, detailing the trauma of seeing her father go to prison for dealing drugs when she was in the third grade. Visibly emotional, Ms. Lance Bottoms explained how the biggest obstacle she had to overcome was not her father’s arrest, however, but rather her own self-doubt.

Union Chapel brings new speakers each Sunday to the historic site on Oak Bluffs. — Ray Ewing

“When battling Imposter Syndrome, one essentially believes that God has forgotten them,” she said, invoking Jeremiah 1:5. She asked the crowd to consider what would have happened if the prophets had doubted themselves, or if Jesus had doubted himself.

In her sermon, Ms. Lance Bottoms attributed her success to her hard work and faith, as well as the support of her family. It was these forces, she said, that propelled her to the mayor’s office, the White House and eventually to Martha’s Vineyard, which she referred to as the ‘Promised Land.’

After a lengthy standing ovation for Ms. Lance Bottoms, the service concluded with a rendition of My Country, ’Tis of Thee, and a blessing for America on the eve of its Independence Day.