Meet our Staff

The Reverend Mikah Hudson
Senior Pastor

The Reverend Mikah Hudson, Senior Pastor at Highlands United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama

Mikah Hudson was appointed to Highlands United Methodist Church in 2010. Rev. Hudson is a native of Robertsdale, Alabama and grew up in the United Methodist Church. He received his BA in History from Birmingham Southern and was awarded a Masters of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University. He and his wife, Missie, are the proud parents of five children: Emmalynne, Eleanora, Miriam, Whit, and Micah.

Rev. Hudson has a deep interest in traditional liturgy and worship, with a particular focus on sacramental theology. Through the sacraments, not only do we strengthen our relationship with God through Christ, but also with one another. He is relationship driven, helping to further Highlands’ outreach and evangelism.

mikah@highlandsumc.net | 205.933.8751, ext 212

Reggie Holder
Director of Growing Ministries

Reggie Holder, Director of Growing Ministries at Highlands United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama

Originally from Tuscaloosa, Reggie Holder came to Highlands United Methodist Church in 1989 to serve as Youth Director. Over the years he began to help our congregation explore God’s call to be in ministry to the Five Points South neighborhood. He helped establish the Festival of the Three Kings, the Child Development Center, and the Community Ministries programs at Highlands. Reggie regularly leads Bible studies and other short-term classes and is a Catechist in the Atrium, our children’s spiritual formation program. One of Reggie’s favorite roles as a part of the Highlands staff is the Children’s Moment during the 10:30 a.m. worship service. Reggie is married to Kristin Harper and they have two sons, Carter and Graham. Reggie takes seriously the call for Highlands United Methodist Church to be a place where all people are welcome, and to discover and use the gifts God has given them to be in service to others.

reggie@highlandsumc.net | 205-933-8751, ext. 213


The Reverend Deb Welsh
Director of Serving Ministries

The Reverend Deb Welsh, Director of Serving Ministries at Highlands United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama

Deb Welsh was ordained a Deacon in the UMC in 2009 though she has served in various churches since 1996. She understands her calling as “one who bridges the world to the church and the church to the world” and felt that call lead her to Highlands in 2012 where she serves as Director of Serving Ministries. Her favorite part of the day continues to be Hospitality Hour each morning. Originally from Rock Run, Alabama, she attended Berry College and Jacksonville State University to obtain a BS in special education before going to Memphis Theological Seminary.

deb@highlandsumc.net | 205-933-8751, ext. 211

The Reverend Henry Gibson
Pastor of Youth, Evangelism, and Inclusive Minstries


A native of North Alabama and a son of a United Methodist Pastor, Henry’s family spent time in various communities in his childhood. His family eventually settled down in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, where he attended High School. He received his B.A. in Religion from Birmingham-Southern College and served as Youth Pastor at Highlands UMC. After graduation, he moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and received his Masters in Divinity from Boston University School of Theology. Henry returned to Alabama and was ordained as and Elder in the United Methodist Church. Henry lives with his dog, Shaggy, and proudly considers himself a “nerd” in every sense of the word. He has worked in as a mover, waiter, bartender, and social advocate. Reaching the marginalized and working to create spaces for all to experience the liberating love of God defines Henry’s call to ministry, and he hopes to put that call to work at Highlands UMC.

henry@highlandsumc.net | 205-933-8751, ext. 200


Rick Phillips
Choir Master and Organist

Phillips, Rick.jpg

Rick Phillips became Director of Music at Highlands in January of 2000. He was previously on the Highlands staff as organist in the 1980's under the direction of Amos Hudson. A student of Dr. Hugh Thomas', Rick graduated from Birmingham-Southern College. Post graduate studies with conductor Robert Shaw and at Vanderbilt University further prepared Rick to be an accomplished organist and for choral leadership. In January of 2001, Rick assumed the role of organist at Highlands. He and his wife Suzanne have two daughters, Lucy and Gracie.

rick@highlandsumc.net | 205-933-8751, ext. 206

Mary Elizabeth Neal
Communication Dirctor & Children and Youth Coordinator


Mary Elizabeth Neal first came to Highlands as a Choral Scholar while a student at Birmingham-Southern College in 2001. She continued to sing in the choir throughout her tenure at BSC, and as often as possible while continuing her studies at Florida State University. Upon her return to Birmingham, she returned to Highlands and has been here ever since. Mary Elizabeth currently serves as the Director of Communications, as well as Children and Youth Coordinator. She also directs the Children’s Choir, teaches music and movement for the Highlands Child Development Center, and sings in the Choir.

maryelizabeth@highlandsumc.net | 205-933-8751, ext. 214


Dick L'Eplattenier
Church Administrator

Carrie Johnson, Church Administrator at Highlands United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama

As Church Administrator, Dick oversees administration, human resources, and facilities. A native of New York, Dick has been a life-long Methodist, serving as chairman on key church committees. He has developed his managerial and interpersonal skills through his many years operating funeral homes in the Birmingham area. In his many command and staff assignments as an Army Reservist he has acquired knowledge in the fields of logistics and facilities management retiring as a Colonel in 2003. He earned a BS degree from the Jacksonville State University in 1973 and an Associate degree in Funeral Service Education from Jefferson State Community College in 1978. He is married to his wife, Lynn, since 1974, has three adult children, and a grandson.

dick@highlandsumc.net | 205-933-8751, ext. 104

Drake Roberts
Welcoming Ministries Assistant

Bonnie Hartley, Welcoming Ministries Assistant at Highlands United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama

Drake Roberts is likely the first person you will see upon entering Highlands United Methodist Church. You will likely find Drake somewhere near the Greeting Space welcoming guests, directing calls, and assisting with Project ID. Drake is originally from Sylacauga, Alabama and is a graduate of Birmingham-Southern College where he studied printmaking.

Drake is also completing a Masters of Arts in Youth Ministry at Memphis Theological Seminary. Drake lives in Trussville, Alabama with his wife of 7 years, Christine. Christine and Drake are blessed with their two sons, Malachi (6) and Rowan (2) along with their 9 year old collie, Chance.

drake@highlandsumc.net | 205-933-8751, ext. 100


Tyra Johnson Pirtle
Finance Manager

Ann Day Hunt, Finance Manager at Highlands United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama

Tyra Johnson Pirtle is currently serving as Finance Manager. Tyra has previously served as the chair of the Finance Committee and as Church Treasurer. She is very knowledgeable of the church’s finances and structer, and has provided excellent leadership during periods of financial restructuring in the past. We are blessed that she will continue the strong stability and dependability that is needed in our finance office. If you have any questions about your financial gifts to the church please do not hesitate to contact her.

finance@highlandsumc.net | 205-933-8751, ext. 103