More than a year ago, I had a unique opportunity to offer an invocation prayer at a statewide meeting.

That, in and of itself, was not particularly exceptional. What made this opportunity special was the occasion — an annual meeting of members of conservation districts.

Not exactly a church convention or religious convocation; in fact, the central purpose for their gathering was not religious or spiritual at all. No, their intention is to encourage and enhance ongoing statewide mutual efforts to conserve the natural resources here in the northwest corner of the lower 48.

My challenge: how to pray with religious integrity before a secular gathering of folks who are concerned about what many believe is a sacred trust.

As it turned out, a fierce late autumn snowstorm made driving precarious, so I did not get the chance to deliver the prayer in person.

But I share this slightly modified version with you because I believe it speaks to our common mandate to be grateful conservers and not arrogant abusers of the Earth and Earth-bound life.

"Creator, sustainer and redeemer of all living things: From your soil does all life spring forth; soil from rocks brought forth from the basement of planet Earth. Your water breaks down solid rocks and extracts minerals; water moves in never-ending cycles from liquid to gas to solid; and water sustains existence. Your air lifts and drops, freezes and thaws water; air carries and deposits soil and seeds; and air fills the lungs of beings.

"From seeds, soil, water and air transform your plants into nourishment and support of vitality (life essence); plants feed, protect and heal animals and humans; and plants beautify for human satisfaction. Your animals partake in the great food chain; animals instinctively receive and give life; and animals enrich many aspects of human existence. From the sunshine of your goodness and for our collective good, such gifts are given to create, sustain and redeem the world and all that dwells therein.

"We accept your mandate and commission to receive, manage and multiply your promised gifts with purpose and passion; to work together as midwives of nature's capital and husbandmen of renewable resources.

"Whenever we share food, fellowship and ideas, we give thanks for the animals and plants that nourish our bodies, for the air that renews our aspirations, for the water that refreshes our plans and for the soil that grounds our convictions.

"From Clallam to Cascadia to Columbia, from Pend O'Reille to Pierce to Pacific, may we the people abiding in every conservation district across our state and even across our nation and world renew our commitment to conserve your gifts for the on-going good of all. Amen."

Timothy J. Ledbetter, DMin, BCC, serves as a board certified chaplain helping persons in crisis effectively cope and find their hope in hospital and hospice settings and is a Tri-City Herald Spiritual Life contributor. He is married and delights in their children and grandchildren. He also enjoys camping and boating. email: timothyl@chaplaincyhealthcare.org. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.