Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

It was, quite unavoidably I’m afraid, all Brett’s fault.

I’ve been attending Cession Community Church, on and off, for about a year and a half now, but it’s only recently that I’ve successfully committed to calling it “my” church.

Last week therefore, as I was vacuuming up after the service at Botany Downs Secondary School, I had the pleasure of being asked, by the Pastor – the aforementioned Brett – to read the Bible in the following week’s service.

Yes! The subtext was undeniable - I’d been non-verbally accepted as a part of the regular Cession congregation! I was IN!

There was just one small, tiny, absolutely microscopically miniscule barely-even-worth-mentioning detail – Brett wanted me to do the entire reading… in Klingon*.

* Or Klingonese depending upon which part of Qo'noS you are from, and not to be confused with Klingonaase.

Brett’s extremely convoluted reasoning was that we were doing a series entitled “Up-Side Down Religion” about how Christianity repeatedly reflects the exact opposite of what one might expect of it. (the weak becoming leaders, God getting pulverised, then offering forgiveness instead of justice for his torture – that sort of thing) Brett therefore believed that presenting a reading entirely in Klingon would in some crazy way reflect this.

I really shouldn’t have been surprised – after all, tonight’s reading had been done by a ventriloquist’s dummy.

For the past 7 days therefore I’ve been contorting my tongue into all sorts of parts of my mouth where it can’t usually reach, to spit, foam and gargle my way through Luke 14:25-33 in the KLV. (Klingon Language Version) Flatmates Dave and Cathy probably overheard me and assumed I was either choking, demon-possessed, or from Ulster.

I’ve also been heavily reading up on the history of the Klingon language. (more correctly known as tlhlngan Hol)

Originated by James “Scotty” Doohan for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), it was greatly expanded by Mark Okrand for subsequent movies and episodes, and today has a dedicated following.

One visionary – Dr. d'Armond Speers – began to raise his newborn son to be bilingual in both Klingon and English. Ultimately the kid rejected the Klingon language – but apparently only because there were so few people other than his dad who he could use it with.

Considering my costume, for practical reasons I sadly decided to ditch the “later Klingon” look (the one with the knobbly ridges on the forehead) in favour of the simpler-to-achieve “classic Klingon” look (human with goatee beard), and discovered that, contrary to my preconceptions, they actually all had differently-styled beards.

So I began to grow my own one. My Klingon even had a name - Tannick.

This morning, with 3 hours to go, I was up in the city giving an interview to the national Christian Life Korean newspaper about the free English lessons I’ve been giving at the Salvation Army. Of course they photographed me, complete with the one-off goatee.

Fortunately the service at Cession didn’t start until 6pm, which gave me plenty of time to catch my bus.

Unfortunately, I discovered that there was no bus.

Thank God for the miracle of text-messaging.

Hi Dave. Bit of a disaster – no buses from the City to Botany all day on Sundays. Can you find someone to pick me up from Pakuranga Plaza at 5:50?

After a whole week of rehearsing, was my big Klingon debut to be cancelled due to Howick & Eastern Buses unexpectedly not running any 68s on Sundays any more? Would Pastor Brett shake his head in disapproval at my tardiness and vow to never let me darken the Cession stage again???

Dave’s answer managed to be both helpful and at the same time throw me yet another curveball…

See what I can do. Also, since your number isn’t in my phone, can you tell me who we should be looking for… ^_^

Stuck on a delayed, crowded bus crawling to somewhere that wasn't quite Botany, and surrounded by people standing-up, it wasn’t very easy to rehearse.

6pm, and Dave successfully picked me up from Pakuranga, just as the service was simultaneously getting starting over in Botany. Incredibly, we were now racing down Te Rakau Drive to get there in time for Dave’s sketch in the service too, which was actually scheduled before my reading.

Oh, and I was getting hungry too.

We crept into the back of the congregation. A video-clip was running. Dave threw on his “Random Dave” costume in readiness for his sketch, and began making his way to the front as his theme music played.

As he was performing his bit at the front, at the back I was squeezing slowly into some army boots he’d brought for me, and a wig. My only privacy whilst changing was that everyone was looking away from me and at Random Dave.

At some point someone whispered to me that Greg was going to be playing my interpreter. Greg? Greg? But-but… who’s Greg??

It was time to go on. It was time to stand in front of 50 people, most of them strangers, on the far side of the world, wearing a ridiculous wig, an embarrassing beard and boots that were way too small, with a guy I’d never met before, and preach the Bible to them… in Klingon.

So we walked to the front. There was a bit of tittering. From somewhere in the second row I clearly heard Frank Ritchie - the mate who’d first introduced me to this church, snigger gleefully “It’s Steve!”

I had my script in Klingon. Extremely new friend Greg had his in English. I addressed the audience. Surprisingly, speaking English with a Klingon accent came quite naturally to me.

“On our homeworld of Qo'noS, we have heard of your puny English translation of the Bible, however to fully appreciate its teaching, you must hear it in the original Klingon.”

I looked at Greg, but he was speechless, and so we began our well-established finely-honed long-lasting rapport-defining double-act of many years’ standing.

14:25 DaH Dun multitudes were ghoS tlhej
ghaH. ghaH tlhe'ta' je ja'ta'
Daq chaH,
14:26 “ chugh anyone choltaH Daq jIH,
je ta'be' disregard { Note: joq, hate }
Daj ghaj vav, SoS, be'nal, puqpu',
loDnI'pu', je sisters, HIja', je
Daj ghaj yIn
14:26 je, ghaH ta'laHbe' taH wIj disciple.
14:27 'Iv ta' taH' SIQ Daj ghaj cross,
je ghoS after jIH, ta'laHbe' be
wIj disciple.
14:28 vaD nuq vo' SoH, desiring Daq
chen a tower, ta'be' wa'Dich ba'
bIng je count the cost, Daq legh
chugh ghaH ghajtaH yap Daq complete
14:29 joq perhaps, ghorgh ghaH ghajtaH
laid a foundation, je ghaH ghobe'
laH Daq finish, Hoch 'Iv sees begins
Daq mock ghaH,
14:30 ja'ta', ‘ vam loD taghta' Daq
chen, je wasn't laH Daq finish.'
14:31 joq nuq joH, as ghaH goes Daq
encounter another joH Daq veS, DichDaq
ghobe' ba' bIng wa'Dich je qel
whether ghaH ghaH laH tlhej wa'maH
14:31 SaD Daq ghom ghaH 'Iv choltaH
Daq ghaH tlhej cha'maH SaD?
14:32 joq else, qaStaHvIS the latlh
ghaH yet a Dun way litHa', ghaH sends
an envoy, je asks vaD conditions
vo' roj.
14:33 vaj vaj 'Iv vo' SoH 'Iv ta'
taH' renounce Hoch vetlh ghaH ghajtaH,
ghaH ta'laHbe' be wIj disciple.

Half-way through, as the microphone began to glisten with saliva and the front row started thinking about putting up umbrellas, my blood ran cold. The Klingon-translation program that Brett had used – at - had had trouble with translating a few of the words, so I was simply clouding them in a thick Klingon accent, and hoping that no-one would notice. But one person was noticing – me. I was noticing because, somewhere, somehow, Greg and I had got out-of-sync.

Effectively, he was now reading the Bible in English, while I was translating it for the benefit of any Klingons that might be present.

Or were we two verses out? About 98% of my brain was concentrating on trying to speak Klingon, so I wasn’t even sure who was actually ahead. Either Greg was going to run out of English to say, or… I was going to run out of Klingon.

Unless I could… oh no. No no no, I couldn’t possibly start improvising in Klingon.

I listened very intently to Greg’s inflexion, straining to hear if his tone was dropping considerably at the end of each verse, indicating that it might be the final one.

Greg wasn’t letting-on.

Two verses before the end I looked at him quite intently, something that was easy to do in character. He looked back at me. I looked back at him. The audience probably thought that I was about to bite his head off.

He seemed to have finished. We silently nodded at each other, approvingly. I turned to the congregation and, completely unscripted, yelled “Qapla’!” (“Success!”) It seemed like the thing to do. We began our exit. It was over. We had indeed maintained our Klingon honour.

Then, just as we were leaving the stage, I spotted Brett creeping on with the stand for his sermon notes. After the sheer adventure of the past week, due entirely to him and his mad crazy ideas, I stopped, in full view of everyone, and got away with something that precious few parishioners anywhere in the world ever get to enjoy doing to their minister.

On the stage, in front of everyone, I growled at him.

And he backed away from me…

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