From Chennai to Pembrokeshire: Shirley Murphy – Part 1


Shirley Murphy as a child with her family.

We asked Shirley, the first Indian woman vicar to be ordained into the Church of Wales, to tell us about her life. This is her story…

I grew up in Madras (now called Chennai) in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. I was born and brought up in Madras and spent most of my life there. In September 2005 I moved here to the UK to do my Masters in Teaching English as a Foreign Language in the London Metropolitan University, and since then I have lived here in the UK.

I met Julian, my husband, who is a Pembrokeshire born and brought up boy, in London in 2007, marrying him in 2008. I worked for El Al Israel Airlines as a reservations consultant until November 2010 and then moved to Wales with Julian in December 2010.

We went to  live in Bronwydd, a village outside Carmarthen, until May 2018 before ending up in Narberth to do my curacy after I was ordained into the Church in Wales. I was the first Indian woman to have been ordained into the Church in Wales as a vicar which was a huge privilege and honour for me.

After living in London for five years, moving to Wales seemed very different. I suddenly encountered silence and not having to listen to police cars and noises all through the night. Initially it was difficult to sleep as I felt lost without the noise but I got used to it and absolutely love it now.

Wales is a beautiful country in which your eyes or heart will never tire of seeing mountains, hills, green lush valleys and lambs. It is just naturally unspoiled beauty. Most things are a few miles away. Welsh people are very tribal and want to protect their language, customs and way of life. There are lot of castles and you literally have to drive around them in some towns which amazes me. Another thing that amazes me is how close you are to the countryside, beach and city.

Above all I love the Welsh people as they are friendly and I have quickly settled in and feel at home here.

What made Shirley realise she had a vocation and where did she train?

I did my ministerial training in St Padarn’s Institute in Llandaff, Cardiff, from September 2016 until June 2018.

I have been brought up as a Christian right from when I was young. I have been to Sunday school in my childhood days, then to youth when I became a teenager, sang in the choir as part of my upbringing in the Christian faith. My parents were ardent Christians and I was brought up in the faith.

In 2000 I had gone to visit the Holy Land with my family. I travelled to every place that Jesus ministered. I enjoyed the tour and came back with good memories. Then in 2003 I went again with my family and at that time there was something different. I was emotionally touched when I walked the Stations of the Cross. When I reached the station where Jesus fell, I felt very emotional and I cried. It was as if God was talking to me and guiding me through that spiritual journey, making me understand that I should start ministry among his people and make them aware about his true love and his teachings.

Shirley, on the day of her first Eucharist, with her parents and Reverend Martin

Thereafter every other place I went to on that Holy Land tour made me feel very emotional and think about God’s ministry, his teachings, the suffering and even the pain he went through for sinners like us. However I put it in the back of my mind and carried on with my life.

In 2005 I came to the UK to pursue my higher education in London, but carried on going to church and took an active part in all the activities.

When we moved to Bronwydd, I started going to St Celynin Church, a small village church there, getting  involved more actively in all the activities. I joined the PCC, then became the vicar’s warden and finally a worship leader…

Look out for more of Shirley’s story which will be continued soon

Kitty Parsons

Kitty has forgotten how long she has been here now but she loves Pembrokeshire for its beauty and it's people. She spends her time searching out stories for, swimming in the sea , drawing and painting as Snorkelfish and eating cake. She says " has been an opportunity to celebrate this beautiful county and its people. Keep the stories coming. We love to hear from you."

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1 Response

  1. Jean says:

    It is wonderful to read your story Shirley. What a great experience you had as you were led along the path that Jesus trod, and ultimately bringing you into the ministry and finding your home and family in Pembrokeshire. May you always continue sharing that love in your own special way. Amen ?