Nudist Colony in Galleywood
Yes, it’s true. A nudist colony on Bakers Lane, in Galleywood Church Parish. With a national magazine (“The Naturist”) associated with it – lots of pictures of naked people, whose particulars have been covered by strategically placed bowls of fruit or pieces of furniture. A weekend haunt for many Londoners, and a few locals.
No, it does not exist today – it was there in the late 1940s. Villagers who were at school in Galleywood in those post-war days remember cycling over to Bakers Lane, hoping to get a glimpse through the fence or get past the bouncers at the gate (they never succeeded). History does not record the response of the formidable Reverend Roughton, Vicar of Galleywood at that time, but I bet he wasn’t in favour of naturism. A few of the children from the Naturist Community even attended the Junior School in Galleywood – in school uniform, of course.
Why do I tell you this story? Well, partly for the pleasure of writing “Nudist Colony in Galleywood” as a headline in Viewpoint. And I think it’s important to hear again stories from the community’s history. But more importantly, I want to introduce a word to you. The word is “counter-cultural”.
A Counter-culture for the Common Good
“Counter-cultural” means “different from the way the majority of people in the culture act and believe”. In the late 1940s, before the swinging sixties, before global warming, in mid-Essex, taking clothes off in public was very definitely counter-cultural, and quite brave. Not commendable, but brave. So I got to thinking - what would be counter-cultural today?
- If a group of people believed that there was more to life than what they could see and touch and buy at Tesco’s, that would be counter-cultural. Believing in love and justice and hope and community and a real, personal God – that would be swimming against the tide.
- If a group of people determined to treat each person, regardless of their age or wealth or celebrity, as an eternal being that will have a continued existence when the galaxies have imploded into nothingness - that would be counter-cultural.
- If a group of people, faced with a culture that said “there is no public truth, I have my truth, you have your truth”, resolutely continued to say that God has chosen to reveal the truth in Jesus and the Bible – that would be counter-cultural.
- If a group of people said that they would continue to meet together once a week to worship God and hear what he has to say to them, even though the world around them gave a hundred other options for what they could do on a Sunday – that would be counter-cultural.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is such a counter-cultural community in Galleywood, believing differently from the majority beliefs of our culture, acting differently from most people in our culture. They are the church.
This is not the counter-culture of some kind of sect, that believes its members have the whole truth and doesn’t care about those outside the cult. This is a counter-culture for the common good, a group of people who are consciously living differently from those around them for the sake of the village, humbly trying to serve it any way we can. And being different from our culture doesn’t mean we’re weird or think we’re better than you are, either; we’re just normal people who have been surprised by the joy of experiencing God in our lives.
It takes a certain bravery to be counter-cultural. We’re all faced with friends, colleagues and neighbours who insist that knowing personally the God who made the universe is less important than earning an extra £25 a week, getting the latest bargains at Bluewater or taking the children to football practice. But every year, new people are deciding that they dare to shed their inhibitions and join this counter-culture for the common good. You can join us, too.
But, please – come clothed.
This article appears as the Vicar's column in "viewpoint" magazine.