The High Peaks Chapter of the Order of DeMolay was inaugurated in a solemn ceremony at Masonic Lodge 193on Russell Street, Saturday, Jan. 29.
The Order of DeMolay is a youth group affiliated with the Masons. It has chapters all over the United States, as well as some chapters in other countries; more than 1,000 altogether. The organization is open to young men ages 12 to 21 who profess a belief in God, though they need not be associated with any particular religion, said Greg Squires, the Master of Ulster Lodge 193. “It could include Buddhism, Islam, any religion,” he said.
The order takes its name from Jacques DeMolay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar. He served from 1292 to 1307, when the order was dissolved by order of Pope Clement V. Subsequently, the Knights Templar was ruled to be a heretical organization and many of its members were burned at the stake. DeMolay was initially sentenced to life imprisonment, but in 1314 he was executed by burning at the stake in Paris. Although the ecclesiastical hierarchy saw him as a heretic because his order refused to accept some of the teachings of the church at the time, he is considered by many to have been a martyr who courageously went to the stake rather than recant his beliefs.
The parent organization was founded by Frank S. Land in 1919 after he befriended a young man whose father had died. In his discussions with the teenager, he saw the need for an organization that would inspire young men and help them reach their goals. He selected the name of DeMolay as a historical defender of the faith.
One of the purposes of the group is to build leadership skills, Squires said, and the group’s activities are planned and executed by the members. Adults act only in an advisory capacity.
The ceremony included the installation of the officers for the new organization: Master Councilor Christian Schoonmaker, Senior Councilor Hunter Chapman, Junior Councilor Matthew Rivera and Senior Deacon Jeremy Squires.
Following an installation ceremony for the new officers, Schoonmaker outlined plans for the coming year, including an athletic and recreational day to be shared with four local chapters. Following this announcement, he asked that the mothers of the new members come forward to receive bouquets.
While the Order of DeMolay has its secret signs and signals of recognition, “We have no secrets from the world so far as our general purposes are concerned,” said Tyler Henderson, the master councilor of New York State DeMolay. “We are banded together for mutual improvement, to help each other live clean, manly, upright, patriotic lives.” A Bible on the table at the center of the room, together with several school books, expresses the organizations respect for religion and its recognition of the importance of education, Henderson said.
The Order of DeMolay opposes housing schools, churches and governments in the same buildings, Henderson said. “Civil, religious and intellectual liberty are the three most important things that make a citizen,” he continued, “but they must stand alone on separate foundations and under separate roofs.”
As he greeted the new officers, Tyler Henderson, the master councilor of New York State DeMolay, stressed the importance of both leaders and followers in accomplishing the purposes of the organization. “The most efficient officers that could be chosen would be ineffective without the work of the members, and the most enthusiastic members would be powerless without intelligent and concentrated leadership,” he said.
In addition to Jack Schoonmaker, the advisory council, also installed at the ceremony, consists of David Barkstedt, chairman; Michael Davis, treasurer; Harry Williams, Gregory Squires and Dana Soule.
The advisors “know that the youth of this community are the upright citizens of tomorrow who will live God-centered lives and contribute to the things that make our community great,” said Bruce Hazzard as he administered the oath of office.
William Sardone, the executive officer of New York DeMolay, presented the official proclamation and letters temporary of the new order. Public education is a concern of the organization and Sardone pointed to the school books on the display table as a symbol of this commitment. Former Gov. DeWitt Clinton was the first grand master of the DeMolay organization in the state and was largely responsible for establishing free public schools, Sardone said.
The chapter received proclamations of congratulation from the Ulster and Greene County Legislatures, proclaiming that Jan. 31, 2015 is High Peaks Chapter, Order of DeMolay day in Ulster and Greene counties. The chapter also received a citation from the New York State Assembly congratulating the new chapter, noting that such past luminaries as former President Bill Clinton, actor John Wayne, and author John Steinbeck were members, among others, and wishing the chapter a productive future. The proclamation is signed by Assemblyman Peter Lopez on behalf of the Legislature.
Among the visitors was Bob Seybold of the FDR DeMolay chapter of Hyde Park, who congratulated the new chapter and said plans were already afoot to work together. “We’re two small chapters, but put two small chapters together, you get one big chapter.”