Oratory of the Good Shepherd
The Oratory of the Good Shepherd (OGS) is a dispersed international community of Anglicans, ordained and lay, bound by a common rule of celibate chastity, responsible spending and direction of life. The OGS rule calls members of the oratory to daily communion, private prayer and the offices. It encourages the labour of the mind, fellowship and the faithful stewardship of talents and resources.
The oratory began in 1913 as a group of University of Cambridge college chaplains who were looking for some form of disciplined life in the comfortable circumstances of the university of those days. The First World War interrupted things, but afterwards they came together again, meeting at Little Gidding, the site of Nicholas Ferrar's community in the 17th century. The "notes" were compiled and the way of life devised. There has been controversy from the beginning, but whether the oratory was inspired by St Philip Neri or the French Oratory of Pierre de Bérulle is probably of little importance since OGS is sui generis.
Until 1939 some of the brethren lived in the Oratory House in Cambridge, where they were joined by research students and others. In 1939 the Oratory House was passed to the Franciscans, since when the oratory has had no permanent base. On occasion two or three brethren have lived together when staffing a parish, but this has been the exception rather than the rule.
Structure and rule
Members are organised into local "colleges", each of which in turn is a part of one of four provinces of the oratory; Australia, Europe, North America and South Africa. They are required each day to: pray the Divine Office, attend Mass and spend an hour in private prayer. Members may use the post-nominal initials "OGS".
The current officers of the oratory include the superior general, the Revd Peter Hibbert; the secretary-general, the Venerable Edward Simonton; and the almoner-general, Brother Michael Bartlett. The officers are elected for a three-year term at the general chapter of the oratory which meets once in every three years. In each of the four provinces the provincial chapters meet more frequently (usually annually) and elect a provincial. The colleges meet regularly throughout the year.
There is an association of Companions of OGS - those who are not professed members but nevertheless support the oratory's aims and agree to live by a simplified version of the rule.
Former members have included the founders, Bishop John How, Bishop Edward Wynn and the Very Revd Eric Milner-White, as well as the Revd Canon Wilfred Knox, the Revd Canon Alec Vidler, the Revd Canon Eric Mascall, Archbishop Robert Selby Taylor, Bishop George Briggs, Bishop Henry Hill, Bishop John Ruston and the Revd Fr Henry R.T. Brandreth. The current membership includes Bishop Lindsay Urwin, Bishop Dominic Walker, Bishop Kenneth Mason, Bishop John William Salt, and Bishop Bruce Myers, the current coadjutor Bishop of Quebec. Archbishop Michael Ramsey was the visitor of the oratory for many years.
Sisters of the Good Shepherd
The autonomous sister society to the oratory is that of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd (SGS), also made up of priests and lay people living in dispersion, but under religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Like OGS, the SGS has an organisation of "companions" attached to it.