Posted by: Steve Coplan | July 21, 2006


When I was sitting in services on Saturday morning I was reminded of a poster I saw in Westminister Abbey some time ago. Specifically, it was the naming ceremony for a little girl who was about 18 months, and whose mother I would guess had just converted to Judaism that prompted the recollection. Usually, girl’s naming ceremonies take place in the first week or first month after birth, depending on custom.

I spent roughly a year in London after grad school in the late 1990s. For the most part I was pretty lonely, but I did find it relatively easy to acclimatize to the preferred mode of socialization for twenty somethings: either congregrating at a single place with the express purpose of drinking to excess or going to dark clubs with thumping music where drugs may or may not be consumed.

But since I didn’t have too many people to hang out with, most of my weekends involved wandering around the city and going to museums (excluding the time consumed for bhabhalazi recovery). It took me a while to find my way to Westminster Abbey because it’s so intimidating given that is the political seat of the Church of England and I feel like I am trespassing in a house of worship when it’s not my religion. When I did eventually make it there, I regretted not making it there earlier. First of all, it’s an enormously impressive building as you might expect for the location of the coronation of the English monarchy on whose empire at one point the sun never set. It’s also impressive for the concentration of the graves and memorials of individuals who have altered the course of history.

But I was strolling through I noticed a poster that pictured a group of Anglican choirboys with their effete, ruffled collars, and underneath the picture, the words: “This could be your son.” The Anglican Church is a prominent institution in South Africa – Bishop Tutu belongs to the church after all – since it used to be a British colony and at one stage membership of the church was a prerequisite to social advancement. Still, I can’t recall knowing too many Anglican choir boys when I was growing up, or any at all on further reflection. So I looked at this poster, assessed my state of cultural acculturation and asked myself: Is this an enticement or a threat?



  1. Choices especially concerning names are of crucial importance. Enjoyed reading here today.


    Shirley Buxton

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