NORMAN — The many books lining the shelves inside Dr. Bob Rice’s office at First Presbyterian Church of Norman are a symbol for the churches emphasis on education — something Rice is very passionate about.
After nearly two decades as the head pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Norman, Rice has plans to retire in August, which means his books will be removed, but his influence within the church will not.
“My experience has been, that God calls me, as I’m sure he does other people, to places they are supposed to be,” Rice said. “And in the very same way that I felt God calling me here, I have the sense that God’s telling me my time here is up.”
For 17 years, Rice has seen the church expand, and now sees an average of 900 congregation members in all facets of the church — from families who attend weekly services to the staff he works closely with on church affairs.
Though Rice grew up with parents heavily involved in missionary work, he said he didn’t always know this is what he wanted to do. He began school, dancing with ideas of becoming a biology teacher, but his interests began to shift.
“I started thinking less in terms of the sciences and more in terms of the arts,” Rice said.
Rice ended up at the University of Tulsa where he pursued a fine arts degree. After meeting his wife in Colorado and doing inner-city work in Philadelphia teaching art, Rice spent 10 months in Vietnam as a chaplain’s assistant. It was this journey through life experiences that led him to his calling.
“I can’t say that one morning I woke up and thought, ‘yes, I’m supposed to go to Seminary and be a pastor,’” Rice said. “But over the course of that time, it became clear to me that this was the path I was supposed to take.”