Langley graduate is ordained in New Zealand

— Created December 30, 2020 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

It’s been a long journey from Whidbey Island to New Zealand, but one of faith and blessings for former island resident, Pixie Paris Rowe.

Rowe, who moved to Whidbey in 1970 and graduated from South Whidbey High School in 1974, was recently ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, a.k.a. New Zealand. In an email exchange with Whidbey Weekly, Rowe explained how her time on Whidbey helped shape her future.

“I loved living in a rural setting, and being part of a smaller school,” she said. “Our class of 1974 was only 55 at graduation!  We attended St. Augustine’s-in-the-Woods [in Freeland] and then I joined a youth group at Christian and Missionary Alliance in Langley. I was influenced by the character and integrity of the lives of my classmates and [a coach] who were involved there.”

A term spent as an exchange student in Mexico cemented Rowe’s love of travel and deepened her faith, she said.

“My personal faith journey crossed denominations, and I followed on to Seattle Pacific University, which further nurtured my walk as a young Christian, whilst being rigorously academic,” Rowe described. “During my time at SPU, I helped lead three summer school terms in England, and fell in love with the British people and their land. Choosing to work there and then study at Trinity Theological College, Bristol, helped me pursue that dream, as well as meeting my future husband, David!”

Rowe’s husband was ordained in the Anglican Church in 1983. Pixie became a licensed lay minister and the couple has worked alongside each other at various parishes, schools and at home, with their four children.

While Rowe’s mother and one brother still reside on Whidbey, she said the time spent apart has served to strengthen her faith.

“My faith as a Christian has been enriched and strengthened by living away from my homeland,” she shared. “Christ has proven himself to be a faithful and utterly reliable God, and the variety of His people in many different settings has caused me to look at the core of my faith, and not find it wanting. I am sincerely grateful to those who taught me and walked alongside during the formative years of my commitment to follow Jesus. 

“Serving God in the church was a natural progression, and raising our four children, and now eight grandchildren, in the faith is the most fulfilling life I can imagine,” Rowe continued.

Rowe said she and her husband took up leadership of an international Christian community and conference center in 2008, Lee Abbey in Devon, southwest England, where their eldest son met his wife, who is from New Zealand. They traveled there for their son’s wedding in 2012.

“We loved the country and made new friends,” she said. “When our son and his wife were to be ordained priests in 2016, we flew out from England again, this time being asked by their bishop if David would consider serving in Wellington Diocese. We prayed and explored what that might really look like, and by 2018, David accepted the calling as Dean of Wellington Cathedral of St Paul.

“My personal call to ordained leadership came soon after we arrived,” Rowe continued. “I lead a team of volunteers who run our Cathedral Welcome Centre and Shop, greeting and sharing God’s welcome in the heart of the capital of New Zealand, just across the street from the Parliament buildings.”

Life in another new country has been good, according to Rowe. She and David are trying to learn Te Reo Māori, the second language of New Zealand, as they use many Māori words in their prayers and worship. And, like the rest of the world, navigating the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic brought many challenges.

“We learned new skills so we could prepare services online, and then Zoom services,” said Rowe. “Now that we are basically COVID-free in the population of New Zealand, we have regular – and large – special services, up to 800 people, all the time. We have had incredibly clear and yet kind guidance from our Prime Minister and her advisors, an easy border to control, and five million people who chose to do the best for everyone. It is an honour to be here at this very interesting time.”

While Rowe may be half a world away these days, she recognizes the many ways in which life on Whidbey Island helped her chart her course.

“What moving to Whidbey did for the whole rest of my life is a huge, almost insatiable, love of islands!” she said. “The other abiding memories of life on Whidbey are: Playing in the band on the back of a truck for the Maxwelton 4th of July celebrations; hanging out in Langley, going to the movies every week at The Clyde; clam digging on Useless Bay; riding horseback through the woods; singing Christmas carols around Langley with an all-age group from the church; and of course, our own wedding at St. Augustine’s-in-the-Woods.”