From Chennai to Pembrokeshire: Shirley Murphy – Part 4
Adapting to life in a pandemic
We asked Shirley, the first Indian woman vicar to be ordained into the Church of Wales, to tell us about her life. Here is more of what she told us...
Having been brought up in a very pious Christian family, I have been actively involved in church and church outreach programmes all my life and enjoy doing them.
I have very fond memories which served to shape my life and included attending Sunday school throughout my childhood and into adult life.
When I completed my Masters in Teaching English as a Foreign Language at London Metropolitan University, I worked as a linguist, interpreter and translator in prisons, such as Pentonville Prison, care homes, hospitals, police stations, hospices and medical facilities. I also acted as a Tamil interpreter and translator for asylum seekers and refugees. After that I started working in Lastminute.com as a supervisor and finally at El Al Israel Airlines as a reservation consultant before resigning and moving to Wales in December 2010.
My particular passion is to help the churches to be at the heart of the community and to be seen to make a difference in people’s lives. I am very interested in developing youth ministry, and attracting more young families and children to the church.
I took Sunday Class for children and also helped with the taking of Vacation Bible School summer camps every year for 15 years when I was back in India. I assisted and helped the Sunday school in my local church in Bronwydd, Carmarthen, when I first moved to Wales.
I was the church warden and worship leader in the local village church in Bronwydd where I resided, and I regularly assisted the vicar in the services by reading the Bible, preaching and even conducting the Sunday services on the second and fourth Sundays of the month.
I went around preaching in the Women’s Fellowship programmes in other churches in Carmarthen when requested while I was still living there. I have also done a lot of volunteering from when I was young and continue this work around the villages where I now live in Narberth.
I have volunteered in raising funds for the Royal Army, London, during the Chelsea Flower show in 2006.
I have been a volunteer helping and assisting from when I was a teenager in the church activities in India and also worked as a volunteer to help clean and educate slum children when I was still back in higher secondary school in India.
I have helped as a volunteer to visit the Mother Theresa Old Age Home and Orphanage every year during the Gift Sunday week (which is two weeks before Christmas) – from when I was 15 until I left India in September 2005 – by visiting the sick, the elderly and children and helping them by singing to them, feeding them, teaching them to read the Bible, telling them stories from the bible and also giving them gifts.
I have also volunteered in a lot of outreach programmes arranged by our churches in India such as visiting children and the elderly who are sick in hospitals or prisons, helping to raise funds by actively participating in competitions held by various churches, visiting leprosy and TB patients, and helping widows and families affected by floods, famines and other natural calamities.
When Covid happened I found that people where getting a bit fed up and losing hope and faith. I thought about what to do to keep their spirits high. So since Mothers Day, March 2020, I have been writing daily reflections and prayers. I also started using my own personal Facebook page to put a quote for the day (which I get online from various authors and pages) and a prayer for the day which seems to have reached people from all over the world, including my family and friends and keeps them spiritually fed.
Many of my friends from India, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, Singapore and other parts of the world have contacted me to tell what a difference it makes to their life to read those prayers every day. Many of them share it with their own family and friends.
Besides that I also send an email around every week on a Saturday to friends, family and congregation members who are online with the reflections and prayers for the entire week. I also publish the reflections every day on our church Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/beneficeofNarberth/ which has also reached people worldwide.
Being married to Julian a musician and video producer has its advantages! At the start of the lockdown I just did a short video to say a little hello and asking people to stay safe, and then later I was approached by some friends of mine from another church who requested me to do something regarding the New Normal. So with the help of Julian we did a video where I gave a little talk about the New Normal and a prayer. That video reached worldwide and had more than 2,000 views and many people have shared it with others and also thanked me for that.
It was during this time that I also thought about starting a blog as I used to have a travel blog previously when I was back home in India.
I wanted to start a blog for my daily spiritual thoughts, reflections and meanderings and so I came up with the blog https://www.revshirleymurphy.co.uk/ which became an instant hit as people started sharing and asking others to check it out.
My own personal reflection regarding racism which I posted on the blog became a huge hit and started getting me publicity from everywhere with people from all over the world contacting me and saying how sorry they were to read about my experiences and how much they enjoy reading stuff on my blog. Now I have a huge following of people who read my blog regularly besides those who have subscribed. I also have new people checking it out every day.
We would like to say thank you to Shirley for taking the time out of her very busy days to talk to us. If you would like to know more, please contact Shirley via the link above.