Revd Shirley Murphy has become first Indian woman to be ordained in St Davids Diocese and the first to be ordained in the Church in Wales
Born and brought up in Chennai (previously known as Madras) in India, Shirley and her brother, Dayan, were raised as Anglicans by their parents, John and Sheila, who are regular worshippers in the Church of South India.
Shirley attended church and convent schools where, she says “I was taught the Christian values to use in my day to day life.”
Other fond memories, which served to shape her life, included attending Sunday school throughout her childhood. Then, as a teenager, she sang in the church choir, participating in many events and concerts including a Billy Graham concert which was shown worldwide through satellite TV.
Shirley came to the UK in 2005 to do a Masters in Teaching English as a Foreign Language at London Metropolitan University. When she had completed her Masters, she worked as a linguist, interpreter and translator in prisons, such as Pentonville, care homes, hospitals, police stations, hospices and medical facilities. She also acted as a Tamil interpreter and translator for asylum seekers and refugees.
It was in London that she met her husband, Julian, who was born and brought up in Fishguard, Pembrokeshire. They have been married for 10 years and have a son, Dylan, who is four and a half years old and attends a local Church in Wales school.
In 2010 they moved to a Bronwydd just outside Carmarthen, where Shirley immediately started attending St Celynin Church. From there, she says, she “very soon started getting involved more actively in church life. I joined the PCC, then became the Vicar’s Warden and finally a Worship Leader.”
Immediately following the birth of her son, in 2013, Shirley felt called to ordained ministry, so she got in touch with her vicar to explore her vocation. Interestingly, when she discussed this with her husband and parents, their first reaction was “it’s about time.”
“That,” says Shirley, “was when I realised that the people around me knew that it was the right thing for me, a long time before I had realised it.
“I was also influenced by the words of the hymn I have decided to follow Jesus. The lyrics are based on the last words of a man from Assam, north-east India, who, along with his family, was converted to Christianity in the middle of the 19th century through the efforts of a Welsh missionary.”
Shirley’s ministerial training has been at St Padarn’s Institute, Cardiff. As part of her Summer Placement in June 2017, she returned to India to work in medical mission camps. She will be ordained Deacon this Petertide at St Davids Cathedral and will serve her curacy in the parish of Narberth with Mounton with Robeston Wathen and Crinow and Minwear with Templeton under the guidance of Revd. Martin Cox.