Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rev George William Cross (Part 3)

The historic 1843 Baptist church in Grahamstown
After a course of study in Spurgeon’s College he accepted in 1873 the call of one of our churches in the Irish city of Belfast. There was a short, happy pastorate, during which he endeared himself and left cherished memories of his public spirit, enthusiasm, and a style of preaching more poetical than was usual there.
Grahamstown received him as pastor in July, 1877. After his induction service at which were five of our ministers, it was decided to form a South African Baptist Union. It was a courageous act of faith and when later our churches increased apace, Cross was one of a trio of church extension leaders.
Late in 1877 the Galeka-Gaika War engaged the attention of the Cape Colony. Cross’ application for a chaplaincy was too late but, being determined to accompany the local volunteers, he was enrolled as a trooper, with permission to serve as an unpaid chaplain. He saw the campaign through and won the respect of his Company as a comrade and a chaplain.
When in 1878 the war ceased, Cross resumed his pastorate in Grahamstown. But in 1880 uncertainty as to an article in his church’s creed caused him to resign, and, to use his own expression, he went “into the wilderness.” Happily he had friends at Bowden, near Grahamstown and there he opened a school. Soon the school attracted public attention by its success in the Cape University Elementary Examinations. While he wrestled with his doubts he often conducted Sunday services in the undenominational church, preaching the truths he was sure of.
Light upon his problem came after five years and he accepted a second call to Grahamstown. A strenuous period of nearly eighteen years followed. He consented to be the commissioner of all the Cape University Examinations. He also became the honorary secretary of the Public School. To him fell the correspondence with the military authorities, who needed the school buildings at the Drostdy for an Imperial regiment, sent out by the British War Office in anticipation of the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. The school committee sold the buildings for £6000 and Cross was kept ver busy until the present handsome High School for boys and the Victoria High School for girls were ready to receive the scholars.
In 1897 his church and townsfolk made it possible for him to take seven month’s holiday, and with Mrs. Cross to visit their relatives in Belfast and renew his energy.
Written by: Kevin Roy

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