A correspondent writes:
THE Revd Hugh Cross, the first appointed Ecumenical Moderator of Milton Keynes Christian Council, died on 10 December, aged 87, after three years of progressive mixed dementia.
Hugh took up his post in Milton Keynes in 1990, during the final fitting-out 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; he steered a path between the differing understandings of what church leadership meant for each of the 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, was a pioneer in 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 Doreen, a trainee nurse.
Hugh’s 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 the age of ten, 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, and, 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), as Ecumenical Officer for England, a consultative post in which he supported emerging ecumenical projects around the country. Hugh held this post for ten years before becoming Ecumenical Moderator of Milton Keynes Christian Council.
Hugh and Doreen moved to Ottery St Mary, in Devon, after Hugh’s retirement. Two years later, 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 3.30 p.m. on Saturday 21 April, at St Mary’s, Ottery St Mary, Devon.