Disciple: Building the Bridge
St. Philip’s Eagle Scout honors creation and legacy with one project
By Malcolm Albergo-Radisch
As a lifelong member of The Episcopal Church in general and St. Philip’s, Durham, in particular, wanting my Eagle Scout project to benefit my church community made perfect sense.
The place I chose to focus my efforts, our satellite property, The Trees, was generously bequeathed to us by longtime parishioner Dr. Jacqueline Harris, MD. “Dr. Jackie” was in the business of saving people, from her childhood in the Netherlands, where she saved a friend from a Nazi death camp, through her adulthood serving in the U.S. Armed Forces as a gastroenterologist and her volunteer work with Indigenous people in Navajoland.
[Image: Malcolm Albergo-Radisch stands with the congregation of St. Philip’s, Durham, in front of the bridge he built for his Eagle Scout project. Photo by Gail Albergo]
Dr. Jackie’s concern for living things didn’t stop with humans. Her devotion to her natural environment was obvious as her 50-acre property, where she lived with her beloved huskies, remained largely undeveloped under her care, making The Trees a great place for exploration and reflection. Its value became especially apparent during the early part of the pandemic. When we were isolated from friends and family beyond our immediate vicinity, The Trees became a place of freedom, where my moms, my dog and I could roam the curated trails and regain some normalcy of the walks we enjoyed before everything shut down.
Through The Trees runs a creek, a tributary of the Eno River, and, while pretty, it does limit the accessibility of the space, which needed to be fixed if the property was truly going to be a space for all St. Philip’s parishioners and guests. Our now-retired deacon, the Rev. Jill Staton Bullard, certainly inspired me with her enthusiasm and encouragement. She was particularly close to Dr. Jackie, so I sought her blessing along the way.
In sensitivity to the environment, I designed my Eagle Scout project, a bridge, to be low-profile and unanchored, so should there be a flood, the bridge will be free to move rather than torn from moorings. I see a place like The Trees as recreation, a place to hike and play, and as re-creation, a place that allows us to marvel again and again at creation. I used reclaimed wood for the bulk of the project and, with assistance from some of my Troop 424 scouts and leaders, as well as St. Philippian (and professional inventor) Glenn Walters, all the pieces came together over the summer of 2022. With a group of St. Philippians and family members as witnesses, the Rev. Gabe Lamazares, associate rector of St. Philip’s, blessed the bridge on Sunday, August 7, 2022.
Caring for our natural spaces is vital—not just for us, but for all the other amazing things living there. At The Trees, I’ve seen families of deer, giant bodies of lion’s mane fungi and trees so wide it would take three or four people to encircle each one. We at St. Philip’s have been greatly blessed with Dr. Jackie’s incredibly generous gift, but even churches without much land, such as our own main church in downtown Durham, can honor our biblical charge to care for this earth, our island home. By making community gardens and pollinator-friendly choices, providing sanctuary to birds, or just picking up trash in our immediate environment, we can be good stewards of what has been given to us, physically and spiritually.
Malcolm Albergo-Radisch is a senior at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham. He will attend NC State University’s College of Engineering this fall. In addition to his time as an Eagle Scout, he served for two years as an organizer for the Museum of Life and Science’s annual Youth Climate Summit. Contact him via the communications department.
Tags: North Carolina Disciple