6 February 2023

Werribee youth leader set to be first Karen youth lay minister

Mayre George has extensive experience helping Karen youth. Picture: Supplied.

Jenan Taylor

11 August 2022

A Werribee youth leader is preparing to become her church’s and Victoria’s first Karen community licensed youth lay minister.

Mayre George, a member of the St Stephen’s Karen authorised congregation has been nominated for lay ministry at the church following more than 10 years of engagement with parish youth.

Ms George, 32, has been delivering trial sermons during some youth services at St Stephen’s in the last few months.

She said she has been involved with Karen youth groups since she arrived in Australia in 2007, and initially helped out at St Thomas’ Werribee where there were more than 100 young Karen people at the time.

In 2009 she became a member of the St Stephen’s youth committee, a leadership team which oversees a group of about 80 active participants. 

She said she was able to draw on the discipleship training she completed in Thailand, and her experiences at a missionary school.

For Ms George, God’s calling is not necessarily about being a lay minister or a leader, but about committing to helping the large number of young Karen people at St Stephen’s and in the broader community.

She said many of the youth club members had often attended services with their parents in Burma, and had kept up the tradition when they came to Australia.

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At St Stephen’s an array of spiritual and physical programs was what held the interest of the participants, she said.

These included tailored services every Saturday and Sunday with music and the sharing of testimonies, as well as the chance to partake in soccer and family volleyball matches once a month.

Ms George said the committee also asked leaders of the mother’s union and men’s society to address the youths regularly.  

“We also invite our priests to come and give encouragement. We don’t say ‘sermon’, we say ‘encouragement’,” she said.

She said the youth leaders were proud of their association with the church and often referred to themselves as the “Karen faith-keeping youth committee”.

Vicar, the Reverend Moe Win Tunkin said in Karen culture young people were viewed as vital to the stability of the church. 

Along with the mother’s union, the men’s society and the Sunday school, the youth group formed one of the four pillars of the St Stephen’s community, Mr Tunkin said.

He also said Ms George had a lot of experience with people and was good particularly at initiating drama games that encouraged participation in group activities.

He anticipated that Ms George would become a licensed lay minister in the next few months.

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