It was only 20 to 8 and already it was crowded and very noisy. Mainly because of a woman sitting at the bar singing loudly. That's okay, I told myself, she's just happy. I couldn't have been further from the truth. Aggressive? Yes. Angry? Yes. Happy? Not really.
The door to the kitchen was locked because R was there. It's important to keep him and knives apart. (I mentioned this to Husband who said, 'I wish you hadn't told me that!') Add several rough sleepers and some newcomers including one who was sitting where I normally sit when I'm leading and I didn't like to ask him to move, as well as our regulars, and we were set for a fine evening.
The atmosphere was already charged and loud lady was making herself more and more unpopular; Martin was talking about throwing everyone out and shutting up early; it was time to get this show on the road.
One advantage I have is that to make myself heard I have to shout and when I shout my voice goes all weak and squeaky so normally I get the sympathy vote. 'Let's have some hush, let the lady speak.' But loud lady didn't comply with the norm. Rather she took centre stage for a solo rendition of O Happy Day.
At which point one of the most disgruntled regulars, who can also be one of the most disruptive, took it upon himself to put her right.
By now I'd tried about 3 times to make myself heard - or rather listened to. Finally, in a very brief lull, remembering what Sean says in these situations, I said, 'If you'd like to stay quietly and take part in the bible study you'll be very welcome but if not perhaps you'd rather go.'
'I'll go then. And I'll come back when you've learned to live it.' (I assume she meant what we preach.)
But as far as I was concerned it'd been a win win thing. One, she'd left quietly; two, she hadn't hit me.
Then I had a round of applause! There can't be many churches who have to throw someone out of bible study and each time the door opened for the rest of the evening my heart leapt into my mouth.
The rest of the evening went very well. Preparing for the study I'd found one commentator who'd said that the passage we were on was 'one of the most intriguing and puzzling in the New Testament.' I shared my heretical theory - and was told it was heresy by a young man who said he was an ex-Christian but who was more knowledgeable and more convinced of most matters of faith then I am - and there was lots of good discussion, and some wonderful shared moments.
A bit later another stranger came in, took a seat at the back, then out of the blue and unrelated to the topic in hand declared himself to be an agnostic, and said he thought God was sleeping and waiting for the right moment. 'He must be asleep 'cos how could he see all the suffering and not do anything?'
Before I or anyone else could say anything one of the rough sleepers spoke up. He said, 'I know God's there and he answers prayers. I was dead for 5 minutes and this guy (he indicated the man with him) and Kinsley prayed for me and I lived.'
'That's right,' his friend said. 'He'd fallen and hit his head on the kerb, and there were ambulancemen just down the road, seeing to R, and they left him and came straight across and saved him. If we'd had to have called an ambulance out they wouldn't have got there in time.'
Coincidence? Maybe. But these two unlikely believers were convinced.
We rounded off the evening with birthday cake for Rowland, a very unassuming gentle man, who was taken completely by surprise, believing nobody knew it was his birthday the next day. But I have ways and means ...
I drove home saying over and over to myself, 'I threw someone out! Me! How tough am I?'