The Rev. Linda Tice became the new minister at the First United Methodist Church of Dunedin in July.
DUNEDIN – The Rev. Linda Tice, First United Methodist Church of Dunedin’s newest minister, believes that she can help the church in its goal to become a more active part of the community.
“I feel very strongly about the church being part of the community and being very visible in the community,” she said. “I think, being the downtown church, that we can be a strong asset for Dunedin.”
Tice, a native of Orlando, has deep familial roots in the state that go back as far back as the 1870s. But until late June, she had never lived on the west coast of Florida.
She said she’s spent much of her days since her first Sunday on July 1 introducing herself around town and getting to know the area.
“I really like the strong community feel and dedication people have for this town,” she said. “I’ve just learned that there’s some great people in this town.”
Before moving to Dunedin, Tice served at Reeves United Methodist Church in Orlando for seven years and at the First United Methodist Church of Winter Park for four years prior to that. Ministry is a second, unexpected career for her.
“If somebody had told me 15 years ago that I would be a Methodist minister, I would have laughed and said, ‘No way,’ ” she said.
It was around the year 1997 that Tice, who grew up in the Methodist church, suddenly felt the call to ministry. Tice had studied to become a psychotherapist, earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in social work from Barry University. She was working as a clinical social worker in a private practice, when God “shook me up a little bit,” she said.
“I really had no expectation of going into ministry. I was very happy doing what I was doing and loved being a therapist,” she explained.
God had a different direction in mind, she said. In her work as a therapist, she began fielding a lot of faith-based issues from her clients.
“I started to feel a little inadequate, that maybe I needed to get a little better training spiritually,” she said.
She ran into a friend who was a pastor and asked him about classes she could take to help.
“Immediately (I) just felt the Holy Spirit at that point, and started crying,” Tice remembered. “I’m not a crier, so he looked at me and I looked at him.”
Something deeper was at play, they decided. Later when she met with the pastor, they figured out that Tice was being called to the ministry.
“I wasn’t real happy at first. I argued with God a lot about that. But it’s been absolutely the right decision,” she said. “Hopefully … I’m helping to change lives and make a difference in churches and be a good representative for God.”
Tice graduated from Duke University’s Divinity School in Durham, N.C., in 2001. She is the First United Methodist Church of Dunedin’s first female minister. The congregation has been very welcoming to her, she said. She estimates that women make up 40 to 45 percent of the ministers ordained in the United Methodist Church.
And Tice is in good company among the other churches in downtown Dunedin. Woman ministers also lead the First Presbyterian Church of Dunedin, the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd and the United Community Church.
Tice explained that she didn’t know where she would end up when she decided to move from her position in Orlando. She could have been appointed to any church within the district, which encompasses most the state of Florida.
“I had to really trust God to take me to the right place where I can be used the best. I think Dunedin is that place,” Tice said.
Tice, who is single, adopted a son from Guatemala. Samuel, now 20, attends Valencia College in Orlando and works at Universal Studios. Tice lives with a one-year-old Labrador mix named Gracie and Tiger, her cat.
Between seeing her family – including her son and mother – and some weddings she officiated, Tice said she’s traveled back to Orlando quite a bit over the summer.
“I’m actually looking forward to staying put for a while,” she said.
Tice hasn’t figured out completely what the role of her new church will be in the future of the community, but said she hopes she can increase its visibility.
“Even though we’re right across the street from the park, sometimes you just don’t see things (if) you’ve been here for a while. I want people to not just see a building but to see a community of people that are excited to be in this town and love Dunedin,” she said.
In the near future, the church is participating in CareFest on Sept. 29, an annual day of service uniting several churches, businesses and organizations in Tampa Bay. The church chose as its project to paint the ceilings and walls of a Dunedin woman’s home.
The church also will sponsor a concert in Highlander Park on Dec. 1, featuring contemporary Christian band Bellarive. The church’s contemporary worship leader, Mike Mage, is a member of the band.
“We hope to be involved in a lot more things in the community,” Tice said. “Good, strong communities, strong towns, have a strong faith-based community as well.”
First United Methodist Church of Dunedin is at 421 Main St. Visit dunedinfumc.org or call 733-4139.