Dr. Lucy Jones Premieres Climate Connections Program at L.A. Churches

The Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society and the Episcopal Diocese of L.A. have premiered a process to improve post-disaster communication, allowing faith-based institutions to better help their members and increase resilience.

On Sunday, October 15, 2023, seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones led an earthquake drill at St. James Episcopal Church in South Pasadena to demonstrate an essential post-disaster communication process developed in conjunction with the Episcopal Diocese of LA. Over the last year, six member churches across greater Los Angeles have been developing their community resilience framework, with guidance from the Climate Connections Program, to help their congregations prepare for disasters, which are increasing in intensity and frequency due to climate change. The Climate Connections Program to increase community resilience in faith-based institutions was developed by the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society with support from the Southern California Edison Foundation.

The Climate Connections Program, which includes the communication drill and the community resilience framework template, is available in the Resources tab.

“If an organization wants to help after a disaster, they need to know who needs help. To connect with each other after a disaster is the first step in disaster resilience.”

– Dr. Lucy Jones

Members of the St. James Episcopal Church choir participate in the communication drill, texting their assigned communications chain in which the members are contacted via text to determine their safety in an earthquake or other disaster.

The earthquake drill occurred at just after the conclusion of the Sunday service at St. James Episcopal Church as a part of the 2023 ShakeOut week. Dr. Jones signaled the start of the exercise by announcing an earthquake had struck, and the parishioners took protective actions in the church’s pews, which included dropping to the ground, covering, and holding on. Once Dr. Jones announced that the simulated earthquake had stopped, the gathered crowd evacuated to the church to the parking lot. The ushers had been trained to assist after a disaster and helped everyone get outside, including those who are mobility impaired. Phase two of the drill — a communications chain in which parishioners are contacted via text to determine their safety — was then put into action. These messages were sent to church members, both present and absent from the service. This communication chain is designed to occur after any disaster and will allow church leaders to create a preliminary report on the status of their congregation’s safety. The third phase was then employed, where leaders from cohort congregations reported their statuses via text.

The L.A. Times covered the earthquake drill at St. James Episcopal Church. Read the article here.

“When we talk about earthquake preparedness, that gets everyone’s attention…But it’s also about preparing and becoming resilient for other disasters that also happen.”

– Dr. Jones in the L.A. Times

The Rev. Canon Melissa McCarthy, diocesan canon to the ordinary (chief of staff) and chair of the Bishop’s Commission on Climate Change, had this to say about the importance of the Climate Connections program: “Dr Jones’s work with the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is invaluable in helping our communities understand, first and foremost, that being prepared for disasters is something that takes proactive work. Second, she has provided a space where relationships within congregations and between congregations across the diocese have been strengthened. She has taught us that resiliency is based in strong relationship and mutual support. Her work has been transformational for us, and we are deeply grateful to Dr. Jones and to Southern California Edison for making this opportunity possible.”

As part of this partnership with the Episcopal Diocese, Dr. Jones delivered the morning plenary presentation at the first Diocesan Climate Change Summit on September 16, 2023. In her speech, Dr. Jones emphasized actionable climate solutions outlined in the Tempo project’s toolkit: “Buy electric, instead of gas. If all of us made a pledge … to make our next car electric, our next stove induction, not gas … we’d meet our emissions goals.”

Read more about Dr. Jones’ presentation here and watch her speech below.

Additionally, on August 20, 2023, Dr. Jones delivered the Sunday sermon at St. James Episcopal Church as part of the implementation of the Climate Connections Program. Dr. Lucy Jones highlighted the connection between commitment to one another, and work on disaster resilience and climate protection. For Episcopalians, this may be tied to their faith’s caretaking purpose. For others, this may be tied to commitment to protecting the environment and local community.

Watch her sermon below.

About the Episcopal Diocese of L.A.
The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is a community of over 48,000 Episcopalians in 147 congregations, 40 schools, and 18 major institutions, spanning all of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties, and part of Riverside County. Learn about their mission and more by visiting diocesela.org.