Former CWM General Secretary Dr Preman Niles was laid to rest in a cremation service at the Beckenham Crematorium in London on 22 August, 2 pm GMT. Family, friends, former colleagues and more turned up to bid farewell to the distinguished Dr Niles, with many attending virtually through the live-streamed service.
It was a contemplative, dignified ceremony, starting with four pallbearers carrying the coffin into the venue as guests stood with heads bowed in respect. St John’s United Reformed Church (URC) minister Rev. Wendy Swan began with a Scripture reading of John 11:25 and words of introduction, as they gathered to commend Dr Niles to God’s eternal care and to commit his body to cremation.
Rev. Swan also gave the opening prayer, where she petitioned for God’s grace for them to find comfort in their pain, hope in sorrow, and assurance with life with God beyond the gates of death, followed by the next Scripture reading of Psalm 122 by Ms Sylvia Gnanapragasam.
CWM General Secretary Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum delivered a heartfelt tribute, followed by Rev. Dr Damayanthi Niles, the elder daughter of the late Dr Niles. In Dr Keum’s reflection, he spoke about the invaluable contributions of Dr Niles, who “through his gift in missiology, theology and finance, built up CWM”. The CWM General Secretary shared anecdotes of his interaction with Dr Niles, who nurtured the future leaders of the ecumenical movements in many ways and contributed to developing liberation theology in Korea, India, and Taiwan. He concluded by giving thanks for the ministry of Dr Niles, who dedicated his life to the glory of God, church, mission, and the people.
The news of the passing of Dr Niles has been met with an outpouring of grief from CWM member churches and ecumenical partners from the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), Churches of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM), Presbyterian Church of India (PCI), Church of North India (CNI) and Kiribati Uniting Church (KUC) providing a glimpse of Dr Niles’ extraordinary work in the ecumenical movement and interfaith dialogue.
AACC General Secretary Rev. Dr Fidon R. Mwombeki expressed profound sorrow, emphasizing Dr Niles’ commitment to fostering unity and understanding among different faiths and visionary leadership. President of the FJKM (Churches of Jesus Christ in Madagascar) Rev. Irako Andriamahazosoa Ammi wrote that he played a pivotal role in Asian contextual liberation theologies.
“His contributions in the ministry of God through CWM and CCA will be remembered in history,” stated The Presbyterian Church of India (PCI)’s Senior Administrative Secretary Rev. Dr K. Lalrinkima.
Further condolences arrived from former CWM General Secretary and Minister Emeritus of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) Rev. Dr Des van der Water; Church of North India (CNI)’s General Secretary Sumit Gupta who offered prayers for the repose of Dr Niles’ soul; and Kiribati Uniting Church (KUC) General Secretary Mareweia Riteti, who lauded Dr Niles’ legacy which has now been passed on to various churches.
Those present observed a moment of silence to reflect before they stood for the Committal of Dr Niles’ body for cremation. The cremation service drew to an end after closing prayers and a blessing.
The funeral service will take place on 25 August at 2:15 pm GMT at St John’s United Reformed Church, Lynwood Grove. Orpington, Kent BR6 0BG. The service will be live-streamed at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSxgsw7yBt0fx0MKaeDYzKAunder the title ‘Preman Niles Memorial’.