In 1185, the year before St Hugh became Bishop of Lincoln, the cathedral, founded by the Conqueror a century earlier, collapsed. The collapse was said to have been caused by an earthquake, although I’d always thought, in what appears to be a part of the world free from major earthquakes, that this might be a story to cover faulty construction.
It appears to have been a bit of both. The Market Rasen earthquake in 2008 (through which I slept, but which woke many and caused some minor damage) was at 5.2 on the Richter Scale, which is about the estimated size of the Lincoln earthquake and which is certainly strong enough to have brought down a vast but vulnerable building.
The Market Rasen earthquake alerted me to the fact that I do live in an earthquake zone – just like everyone else on earth. It is simply the fact that it is only specialist equipment which detects most of them. There were earthquakes at 1.5 and 1.7 on the Richter Scale beneath Caistor on 17th February and beneath Horncastle on 4th March, each at about nine miles depth (for which compare the less than one mile depth of most oil and gas well drilling).
I feel an Easter sermon coming on. Matthew records an earthquake at the time of the resurrection. Biblical literalists will trust that this Gospel preserves memory of an actual historical earthquake somehow omitted by the other three Gospels. Biblical liberals will suspect that the record is symbolic – all the apparent solid ground of our previous assumptions about the finality of death and about much else suddenly shifts.
But it is the discovery that we all live in a zone of frequent but rarely detected earthquakes which intrigues me as this Easter approaches. Beneath everything assumed and dull, solid and stable, God is moving in ways rarely observed by those of us on the surface.
I'll approach this "Easter" not just a noun which describe the one fundamental moment. I'll approach it as a consequential verb to describe the risen Lord’s continued movement deep within us: “let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east”.
The pictures of materials and of work under way in St Nicolas’were taken there on Tuesday. We were there to negotiate the final timetable for having the church cleaned and ready to hand back to us ahead of a wedding rehearsal in a month’s time and our beginning services there again in May.