The Revd Hugh G Cross MBE: 1930-2017
Baptist minister who played a significant role in the world of ecumenism in England
Hugh Cross, the first appointed Ecumenical Moderator of Milton Keynes Christian Council, has died aged 87 following three years of progressive mixed dementia.
Hugh took up his pioneering role in Milton Keynes in 1990 during the final fitting out of the newly built Church of Christ the Cornerstone, which served as his office and a base from which he carried out his pastoral duties among the expanding community and local clergy. During his five-year tenure, which ended with his retirement in 1995, he shaped this post, steering a path between the differing understandings of what church leadership meant for each of the different Christian denominations, while faithfully representing their church leaders within the city and surrounding areas.
The son of missionary parents, Hugh was born in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) where his father, Arthur Cross, played a pioneering role in the field of Christian unity and industrial mission. Hugh came to the UK in 1951 and attended Bristol Baptist College, where he trained for the ministry. During his time there, he met and later married his wife Doreen, a trainee nurse.
His first ministry was in the Yorkshire mining town of Rotherham, followed seven years later by a move to Plymouth, where he became the minister of Morice Baptist Church.
In 1965, with four children under 10, Hugh and Doreen emigrated to the Copperbelt of Zambia, where Hugh had accepted a job with the United Society for Christian Literature. From his base in a bookshop in Kitwe, he and his Zambian colleague travelled around the country by van, navigating their way along pot-holed, dusty, unmetalled roads selling religious and educational books to schools and government offices. This break in his ministry was a chance to return to the country of his birth.
Hugh brought the family back to the UK in 1968 where, in 1969, he joined an embryonic Local Ecumenical Project at Grove Hill, a newly built housing estate on the edge of Hemel Hempstead. Sunday worship was held in a builders’ hut, while the streets, houses and, eventually, an ecumenical church were built around it. It was a successful experiment which brought the different denominations of the Christian church under one roof. Hugh learnt much through this experience, and in 1979 took up a post with the British Council of Churches (latterly, Churches Together in England), becoming Ecumenical Officer for England, a consultative role supporting emerging ecumenical projects around the country. Hugh held this post for ten years before taking up his post in Milton Keynes.
Hugh and Doreen moved to Ottery St Mary in Devon following Hugh’s retirement in 1995. In 1997, he was awarded an MBE for services to Ecumenism.
Doreen died in 2010. Hugh is survived by his four children Janet, Graham, Allan and Kathleen, and five grandchildren.
A thanksgiving service will be held at 3.30pm on Saturday 21 April at St Mary’s Church, Ottery St Mary, Devon.