Rev. Michael R. Bailey
Raised a Presbyterian in Atlanta, Georgia, Rev. Michael Bailey continues to seek to answer the call of Christ through being a husband, father, family member, friend, and Presbyterian Church (USA) Pastor. Michael states, “Since my earliest recollection, God’s presence has been apparent and at work in my life, bringing about rich experiences, nurturing relationships and countless gifts through which much grace has been imparted.” Recognizing the call to gospel ministry early in life, Michael knew after graduation from Furman University that his vocational calling was ordained ministry in the Presbyterian Church. He attended Columbia Theological Seminary and graduated with a Master of Divinity in 2000. Michael answered the call to serve as First Presbyterian Church of Morganton, North Carolina’s Head of Staff in 2005 after serving as Associate Pastor at First (Scots) Presbyterian Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Michael and his wife Laura, along with children Hudson, Charlie, and Katherine (and lab Lola) moved to Tuscaloosa and began their ministry at First Presbyterian on January 1, 2017.
Rev. Lou Ann Sellers
Associate Pastor for Congregational Care and Missions
Rev. Lou Ann Sellers has served as Associate Pastor for Congregational Care and Mission since 2008. A native of Gastonia, North Carolina, Lou Ann received her degrees in Business Administration from Wake Forest University and her Master of Divinity from Columbia Theological Seminary. Her professional experience includes working for an employee benefits consulting firm and as a hospital chaplain at Baptist Hospital, both in Winston-Salem, NC. She also served as Campus Minister at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, as Associate Pastor in a German Evangelical (Reformed + Lutheran) congregation in Duisburg, Germany and as Associate Presbyter for Women’s and Peace & Justice Issues in the German Evangelical Presbytery in Muelheim on the Ruhr, Germany. The position Congregational Care and Mission ties together wonderfully several aspects of Lou Ann’s interests and experience. Her studies abroad during college sparked an interest in working overseas. This interest has led to several cross-cultural experiences living and working both in Jamaica and Germany and leading college students on international mission trips. Congregational care involves everything from pastoral care to supporting different groups within the life of the congregation – ranging in ages and stages from the Mature Members to children's Vacation Bible School. Through her marriage to German pastor Thomas Herwig, Lou Ann has the wonderful opportunity to live in a cross-cultural household together with their daughter Madelyn. Her husband Thomas teaches fulltime as Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, History and Political Ethics in the Honors College of the University of Alabama and serves as Parish Associate at First Presbyterian Church. Their daughter Madelyn attends Tuscaloosa Magnet School Middle. Lou Ann's interests include spending time with her family doing such things as working in the yard, swimming, reading, watching movies and still finding time for the German afternoon coffee and dessert!
Rev. James Goodlet
Associate Pastor for Campus Ministry, Director of UPerk
My name is James Goodlet, and I'm the campus minister at UKirk Ministries. I've been an associate pastor at First Pres. since December '07, after graduating from Columbia Theological Seminary the previous May. I'm a die-hard Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket (even though I'm a Furman University grad) and, when I'm not hanging out with my students, I'm probably daydreaming about fly fishing in Montana. If I were to tell you why I'm here, it's pretty simple: I love being on a college campus, with all of the students and professors, the studious atmosphere and inquiring minds, and, of course, the electricity that athletic events present. College is an incredibly formative time in our lives, one in which we explore new ideas, consider where we stand, learn exciting things, and delve into what it is we believe. The idea of participating in that is, for me, an incredible opportunity. As a campus minister, I always anticipate challenges and being challenged. I look forward to speaking and, more importantly, listening. I enjoy learning exciting new things, meeting new people, and experiencing new experiences. When I'm not hanging out with our students or at the church, I can usually be found out and about with my wife, Margaret, our son and daughter, Sam and Louise, and our pets, Toasty the dog and Toonces the cat.
Rev. Neeley Rentz Lane
Associate Pastor of Youth Ministries
Rev. Neeley Lane has served as Associate Pastor of Youth Ministries since her ordination and installation at First Presbyterian Church on September 25, 2016. Neeley served as the Director of Youth Ministries since August 2015.
A native of Dahlonega, Georgia, she received her undergraduate degree at Presbyterian College in South Carolina. Following college, Neeley served as the Director of Christian Education at First Presbyterian Church in Hartsville, South Carolina, for more than three years. She then served as the director of high school youth ministry at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, for more than six years. While serving Covenant, she studied at Union Presbyterian Seminary. She graduated with her Masters of Divinity in June 2016. Neeley moved to Tuscaloosa, with her husband, Robert, and their girls. Robert is the head women’s soccer coach at the University of Montevallo. Kately, Paisley, and MaryRentz are their three daughters. Neeley feels called to accompany middle school and high school youth along the journey of faith through relational ministry, partnering with parents, equipping youth to the be the Church of today, and by providing a place for youth to ask questions, discern God’s activity in their lives, a place for youth to be themselves, and to hear God’s call to BE church out in the world.Neeley enjoys all things Montreat, children’s advocacy work, family suppers around the dinner table, craft time with her daughters, supporting Robert on the soccer field, Sabbath on the Carolina coast with extended family, journaling, tap dancing, and fellowship with friends new and old!
Dr. Thomas Herwig
Parish Associate Pastor "First Pres Deutsch"
Rev. Dr. Thomas Herwig serves as Parish Associate for “First Pres Deutsch,” a German-speaking congregation house by First Presbyterian Church. Thomas is a German Protestant theologian and minister with a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology. He wrote his dissertation about the Swiss Reformed theologian Karl Barth and his relationship with his Ecumenical Movement in the 20th century. Thomas is married to Lou Ann Sellers, Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian. Thomas also teaches Religious Studies, History and Political Ethics as Assistant Professor in the Honors College at the University of Alabama. Thomas is the father of a son and two daughters. He is grateful for the hospitality of First Pres to host the German congregation, “First Pres Deutsch,” which has become a home place for German-speaking persons in the region.
Director of Music
Marjorie Johnston (Margie/Marj.) joined the staff as Director of Music in January of 2017. A native of Florence, AL, she earned her Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance and her Master of Music degree in choral conducting, both from the University of Alabama. Marjorie has held full-time positions at Episcopal churches in Huntsville, AL, and in Barrington, IL, leading comprehensive music programs involving both adults and children. She has prepared and conducted two choir tours through Great Britain, and is on the editorial staff for The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians. In 2014, she completed Volunteer Lay Chaplain Training, sponsored by Rush Hospital and Chicago Episcopal Charities. Before coming to First Presbyterian, she served in interim Director of Music roles for St. James Cathedral in Chicago, IL, and St. George’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tennessee, helping to restore musical excellence and morale to ministries that had experienced difficulties. Expanding on her accomplishments in classical and sacred music, Marjorie also has paired her musical talents with administrative skills during a long tenure with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, serving as Associate Chorus Manager and Music Librarian, while working as a professional singer with the Chicago Symphony Chorus, the Grant Park Music Festival, the Chicago Bach Project, and the Bach Week Festival, where she was also Assistant Director of the Chorus. As a choral singer, Marjorie has performed under the leading conductors of this generation, including many years at the Carnegie Hall Choral Workshops in New York City with Robert Shaw. She also plays the flute and enjoys a side career as a professional cocktail pianist. Marjorie brings a lifetime of experience in the Episcopal Church, and is eager to expand her horizons here at First Presbyterian. Aside from her musical interests, she runs and plays racquetball, supports animal welfare, and is delighted to return to Tuscaloosa where both friends and strangers understand her passion for Alabama football!
L. Jeffries Binford, Jr.
Jeff Binford has served as Organist at First Presbyterian since January of 2002. Jeff, a native of Brownsville, Tennessee, received the Bachelor of Music degree in Organ Performance from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, and the Master of Music degree in Organ Performance from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. His organ professors include Helen Trotter Midkiff, Dr. Donald McDonald, Dr. George Markey, Harald Vogel, and Virgil Fox, the internationally-known concert organist, Jeff also studied in France with Marie-Louise Langlais of the Paris Conservatoire. He has served churches in Tennessee, New Jersey, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Alabama as organist or organist/choirmaster since the age of twelve. Before coming to Tuscaloosa, Jeff was the organist at the Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas, one of the flag-ship churches in our denomination. He has also written reviews and articles for the two major American organ publications: The American Organist and The Diapason. Jeff appears in a video series made in Paris that provides information about famous French organists, composers, and churches. The video is available from the Organ Historical Society. He has played recitals throughout Europe in places such as Sainte-Clotilde church in Paris, the cathedral in Albi, France, the cathedral in Aix-en-Provence, as well as Bach’s church in Leipzig, Germany, the Kaiser Wilhelm church in Berlin, Saint Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, and various other venues in England, Scotland, Germany, Austria, France, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Most recently, Jeff played a recital on the largest pipe organ in the world at the Convention Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In his position at First Presbyterian Church, he plays for two worship services each Sunday, accompanies the Adult, Youth, and Children’s choirs, and plays for all weddings, funerals, and special concerts with the Adult Choir. He also helps in planning concerts for the Advent and Lenten recital series. Along with his life-long interest in music, Jeff recently has enjoyed being part of several productions at Theatre Tuscaloosa. Other interests are reading, research, listening to recordings, attending concerts, home-improvement, travel, and anything to do with Colonial Williamsburg!
Director of Christian Education
Jenny Thagard has served as the Director of Christian Education since 2005. Jenny is a retired public educator with 26 years as a teacher and administrator. The area of Christian Education includes the church nursery, children’s and adult Sunday School, mid-week Logos program, Godly Play and VBS. Jenny is a Ruling Elder and a Certified Christian Educator. Jenny’s husband George is a Ruling Elder and Choir Member. The rest of Jenny’s family includes adult children, Frank and Merrill and son-in-law, Ben Flowers.
Bill Pool has served as the church administrator since 1998. A native of Northport, Alabama, Bill is a graduate of the University of Alabama, where he was commissioned through the ROTC program and went on to serve 29 years in The United States Air Force, retiring as a full Colonel in 1997. As church administrator, Bill has responsibility for those functions necessary for the day-to-day operations of the church and its facilities. Those duties include supervision of the support staff, planning for the daily and long-range maintenance of the building and grounds, and the operation of the vehicle fleet. Bill is married to Frances Rice Pool, and they have two daughters, Amanda and Carolyn and two granddaughters, Harper Marie and Olivia. Golf, racquetball, and Alabama sports are a continuing joy for Bill.
Church Financial Secretary
Libby Hagler has served as the church financial secretary since 1993. She has three daughters, three grandsons one granddaughter. Libby enjoys reading and gardening and being in the sun.
Chelsea Allen has served as First Presbyterian’s Executive Assistant since January of 2017. Chelsea is a native of Huntsville, Alabama and obtained her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Alabama. She also holds a Master of Arts in Education from the University of Alabama and taught elementary school for the Tuscaloosa County School System prior to joining FPC's staff. Chelsea now serves as the assisting office manager to First Presbyterian's four pastors and congregation. Chelsea and her husband, Garrett, have a daughter who attends First Presbyterian Preschool. Chelsea serves as the Chairperson of its Parent Committee and she most enjoys being a mom, cooking, and traveling with Garrett.
Suzanne Cornett started as Communications Coordinator for First Presbyterian Church at the end of June. She is transitioning from a 20 year career in television. Suzanne attended the University of Alabama and called Tuscaloosa home for several years before moving to Birmingham where she still resides. She is an active member of South Highland Presbyterian Church where she spends much of her free time with the youth. She is a big fan of sports in general…. especially UA sports! She has two fur-babies (her dogs) that she tends to spoil.
Mike Till has served as Church Sexton since February 2008. He is originally from Greenville, Alabama and spent 25 years working for the railroad. Mike is responsible for maintenance and custodial duties, making sure that our church is clean and well maintained. Mike is married to Amanda, and between them, they have 4 children and 7 grandchildren. He is a member of Northport Church of God and is very involved in the music program there as a guitarist and soloist.
Sara began serving as Director for First Presbyterian Preschool in July of 2017. Prior to this position she served as the Assistant Director of the Preschool. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Alabama and a Master of Science degree in Continuing Education from the University of West Alabama. As Preschool administrator, Sara has responsibility for the daily operations of the Preschool and its staff. Those duties include providing high quality care for children and families in the community along with implementing a faith based curriculum that is developmentally appropriate for young children.
Sara and her husband, Michael, have 3 children; Hunter and Hadley who attend American Christian Academy, and Harper who attends First Presbyterian Preschool. She enjoys spending time with her family, watching sports, and the beach.