Reverend Murphy: The first Indian woman to become Bishop’s Chaplain in Wales

Credit: ITV Wales

The Reverend Shirley Murphy became the first Indian woman to be ordained by the Church in Wales two years ago and now she’s beginning her new role as Bishop’s Chaplain to the Bishop of St David’s - another first.

She was born in the largely Hindu City of Madras - now Chennai - but Shirley Murphy and her brother were raised as Christians and taught to value and respect religion in all its forms

The Reverend believes it was those experiences growing up that have shaped her ministry here in Wales.

I’m this sort of different sort of vicar who wears coloured clothes, because of my culture I like colours.

Reverend Shirley Murphy

Shirley Murphy came to the UK in 2005 to study for a masters in teaching English as a foreign language at the London Metropolitan University.

She met her husband Julian and six months later they decided to get married. And it wasn’t long before they returned to Julian's birthplace of West Wales - a place where they would eventually call home. 

She found that despite the distance between Pembrokeshire and her childhood home, life in the small parish of Narberth, is not as different as you might think.

“I find that people are very family oriented here and for me when I was growing up family was everything." 

Credit: ITV Wales

Her dedication to the community comes from a sense of duty to others which has been instilled in her since her early childhood. She says her parents were very charitable, even though the family didn’t have much.

Narberth, like elsewhere in Wales, has been in lockdown for several months, with many people self-isolating and shielding. But through a sense of community and togetherness, the congregation has remained strong and Shirley and her family have been there throughout.

“Me and my husband, our vision is to build this community where we want to have a place which is welcome for anybody and everybody.

"A place where people can come in and have a hot meal and feel that it's home for them.”

Credit: ITV Wales

When Shirley arrived in Wales she started going to the local church and getting more involved. But at 38 years old, one key event in Shirley and Julian’s life became pivotal in her decision to follow a life in the church.

“There were always people telling me I would never be pregnant because I was too old to have a baby but I always had this thing which would say that God had a purpose and a plan and he would give me a child, so when I became pregnant I was very happy. And after 26 hours of labour I ended up having my little boy. So I always call him a miracle baby.”

Shirley says it was this event which led to her decision to enter the Church. It’s been a difficult route with many ups and downs, but she believes that even the tough times she's faced, have helped to shape the person she is today.

All through my life I have faced people who have pulled me down. They have said but you are not from here, you can’t do things the way we can do because we are from here. And I have proved them wrong.

Reverend Shirley Murphy

"I remember when I started working, this woman looked at me and she said I would rather die than be served by you. You are just slaves so go back to where you came from and she walked off. 

"I was very upset, the next day I called my dad and I told him I don’t want to be here, people are speaking to me like this and I want to go home and he said God took you there you have strength so pray to God and things will be alright.”

And now settled in Wales the Reverend Shirley Murphy believes that she has found the community that needs her as much as she needs them.

“People have accepted me and love me for who I am. I have absolutely loved it because Wales is now home for me.”