Priory of Philadelphia

The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem ®


Grand Prior III John W. Finger, GCTJ, established the Priory of Philadelphia on March 1, 1970, to include all of Pennsylvania. He named Chev. William Buchanan Gold, Jr., GOTJ as organizing prior.

The Grand Prior installed Gold as Prior I at the Priory’s first Convent and Investiture on June 20, at COL Chev. Brook M. Lessing’s “Timberline Lodge” in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania. He invested thirteen postulants and transferred Chev. Charles Edgar Hires, GCTJ, GMTJ from the Priory of the Delaware. Hires went on to become Prior V, host a Grand Convent and Investiture in Philadelphia in 1970 and become Grand Prior VI the following year. Thus, the Priory began with twenty members, to which it added four more postulants during its first year.

On July 21, 1977, Gold attended the Convent of the SMOTJ Allied-Affiliated Signatory and Provincial Countries of the North Atlantic Treaty held at London’s Grosvenor Hotel.

The Priory of Philadelphia enjoyed much success in its endeavors over the years. It built up its membership and hosted convents and investitures at many Philadelphia social landmarks including the Button, Corinthian Yacht, Philadelphia Cricket, Philadelphia Country, the Rittenhouse and Union League clubs. The Priory contributed vigorously to a number of charities. It formed a color guard in 1980 which grew to include a captain and three deputy standard bearers.

Many priory members assumed Grand Priory offices such as Grand Prior, Grand Inspector, Grand Editeur and Grand Chirurgeon. The priory hosted several Grand Convents and Investitures, most notably in 1979 and 1983. It helped the GPUSA contract with Bailey, Banks and Biddle of Philadelphia in 1984, to provide insignia and regalia.

However, activities were waning toward the end of the century and membership fell to twenty-five members. Prior IX Chev. Matthew D. Dupee, Esq. spearheaded efforts to reinvigorate the priory, such as combining events with the Priory of the Delaware, identifying potential postulants and working on charitable contributions. The priory even sponsored an Armistice Day service on November 11, 1999 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.

No records from 2000-2007 either were kept or survived and those members remaining received no communication from any of the priory officers. The GPUSA changed the priory’s status to a preceptory of the Priory of the Delaware in 2006.

The Priory of the Delaware encouraged the Preceptory of Philadelphia again to work toward priory status. Grand Prior XV, MG Chev. Robert C. G. Disney, GCTJ, GMTJ elevated the preceptory to a commandery at Delaware’s Convent and Investiture on December 8, 2007. He installed Chev. Charles S. Canning, KCTJ as its commander and challenged the Commandery to become eligible for priory status within a year.

The Commandery met Disney’s challenge and became a priory once again on November 22, 2008 with five new members. Chev. Canning, KCTJ was installed as Prior X. Chev. Aaron R. White designed a priory coat of arms. The Priory held its first Convent and Investiture as the resurrected Priory of Philadelphia on April 3, 2009, at Andorra Baptist Church in Philadelphia, followed dinner at the ACE Conference Center.

The reconstituted priory continues to conduct convents and investitures, host social events and contribute to charities. Additionally, some of its members took the initiative to look into the possibility of the priory’s hosting yet another Grand Convent and Investiture in Philadelphia, which took place June 5-9, 2013.

The Priory sponsored a fund-raising luncheon on January 9, 2012 for the Rev. Canon Andrew White. Grand Prior XVII, CAPT Chevalier Keith H. Larson, GCTJ, GMTJ, presented Canon White with a GPUSA check for $25,250 toward his work in Iraq. After a brief hiatus, the priory is once again making a positive difference in the world.

Priors of the Priory of Philadelphia
Prior I Chev. William B. Gold, Jr., GOTJ (1970-1971)
Prior II COL Chev. Brooke M. Lessing (1971-1973)
Prior III Chev. Alexander P. Hartnett (1973-1974)
Prior IV Chev. Graham T. Smallwood, Jr. (1974-1975)
Prior V Chev. Charles Edgar Hires (1975-1980)
Prior VI Chev. Dominic J. Pontarelli, MD (1980-1986)
Prior VII Chev. Arthur Judson (1986-1997)
Prior VIII Chev. Hon. Herbert K. Zearfoss, Esq. (1997-1999)
Prior IX Chev. Matthew D. Dupee, Esq. (1999-2006)
Prior X Chev. Charles S. Canning, GOTJ (2008-2010)
Prior XI Chev. Thomas R, Johnson, KCTJ (2011-2012)
Prior XII Chev. William H. Haynes,GOTJ (2013-2014)
Prior XIII Chev. Joseph A. Auteri, GOTJ (2015-2016)

Priory of Philadelphia



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