Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rev George William Cross (Part 1)

Photo found in the Pretoria Central Baptist Church's Diamond Jubilee (1897 - 1957) pamphlet.
Mr. George William Cross’ tall figure and joyous smile of greeting were familiar sights in the Grahamstown of the eighties and nineties of the last century. These were the years when my pastorates in Port Alfred and Kariega enabled us often to meet. I emphasise the smile, because it was a characteristic part of the charm of a magnetic personality. It illumined his face at times when preaching, or reading aloud to a congenial listener, the music or the sentiment of one of his favourite poets, or telling a story from “Brer Rabbit” or “Alice in Wonderland” to young people. That smile dissipated self-depreciation on occasions. Before meeting him one might be in the mood of Mark Rutherfords confession: For I was ever commonplace, of genius never had a trace – that smile restored one’s feeling of value.
Some men suggest a walled town with its gate locked, bolted and barred. In effect they say “No admission to our confidence. Our hearts are our own and we keep them to ourselves.” Not so was Cross. He might be cautious to be doubtful, but to others his heart was like his home, an open house. The welcome was always evident. His friendship was a steadfast loyalty. In any misunderstanding of his action he waited with a quiet confidence of one’s discovery of his fidelity.
There was an entire absence of an embarrassing self-consciousness in him. Some men live in the shadow of themselves, and so are shy or awkwardly self assertive. Cross was natural, unhampered by thought of himself in company or when addressing an audience. His modest self-possession made him a charming host, companion, or public speaker.
Qualities considered to be opposites were seen in him. The man of sentiment is seldom a man of affairs. By sentiment I understand sensitiveness of beauty, poetic fancy, visions of imagination, and to the respect due to man as man. Now Cross was a man of sentiment. Upon going ashore at Cape Town in 1883 one of our ministers took me for a walk over Signal Hill. In our conversation Cross, whom I had not seen, was referred to and coldly criticised for his ecstasy over a Cape flower. My companion was a very earnest preacher for the Gospel, but he was not a poet. Cross was both, and his ecstasy was akin to the poet Wordsworth’s upon his recollections of a host of golden daffodils: Then my heart with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils.
Written by: Kevin Roy

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