Waggoner is the wife of Bishop James E. Waggoner, Jr., who was hired away from West Virginia to his post in Spokane six years ago. And while the bishop took his place as the administrator of 42 churches spreading across Eastern Washington and into North Idaho, Gloria Waggoner started a ministry of her own -- what she calls "greening up the diocese."
It started this fall at St. John's Cathedral on the South Hill and the Paulsen House -- a nearby property given to the church in 1958, where she is curator and where she's opened a small organic products boutique. Over the next three years, Waggoner -- a painter and landscape artist -- plans to teach all 42 churches in the sprawling diocese how to leave a smaller ecological footprint: how to conserve resources, and how to keep the church running without using toxic chemicals. Speaking with church leadership and with the congregations themselves, she asks each group if they're recycling their newsletters and newspapers, if they're bleaching their kitchens. Are they using energy-conserving compact fluorescent bulbs or the old conventional kind? Are they spraying their gardens with toxic herbicides when they could just use vinegar?
Waggoner says her environmental ministry is a natural outgrowth of her larger mission. "It came out of a belief that if we're going to practice sound methods of parenting and living, then that has to include the environment and how we take care of ourselves, how we take care of our children ... If you go back to what Jesus said, we love our neighbor. And then we ask the question, 'Who is our neighbor?' And that has global implications."
She says the media coverage given to global warming, to greenhouse gases and poisoned water and car exhaust has been a much-needed "reality check" for society.
"Regardless of our denomination or our religious preference, I think many people are becoming more aware of actually where we stand on Earth," she says, adding that she believes in living in the present moment with an eye to the future, rather than throwing all her passion into the afterlife. "We were given this legacy in the very beginning. Of the earth. Legacies come with responsibility. How do we respond to the gift we've been given? How do we take care of the gift? What's our legacy going to be?"
-- JOEL SMITH