There is a new face on the altar at Ballard Vale United Church, and with it comes a change in philosophy there.
The Rev. Geisa Matos has taken over as pastor of the church. In her three months leading the congregation, she has taken steps to bring the church in a new direction, strengthening unity and community ties.
Matos knew she wanted to do God's work from the time she was young.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Matos, now 37 and living in Andover, began her career in the pastoral ministry when she was a teenager.
Upon finishing high school, she took courses in theology at the Seminary of the Dominican Evangelical Church. She was also a full-time student at Santo Domingo Autonomous University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology.
Matos came to the United States in 2002.
She earned her bachelor's degree in liberal arts from Harvard University. In 2013, she received a master of divinity degree from the Boston University School of Theology.
During her time at Boston University, Matos served as a pastor at the United Methodist Mission La Restauracion in Springfield.
She was later appointed to the First United Methodist Church in Manchester, New Hampshire. During her time in Manchester, she became an ordained united Methodist minister.
Matos took the pastor's position at Ballard Vale United Church in June. She came to Andover with her two daughters, Anisha, 3, and Geila, 5.
Holding a strong passion for Christian work, Matos is a leader with the World Methodist Council, where she helps produce resources used for worship and liturgy for Methodist churches worldwide.
In her few months leading the Andover church so far, Matos has worked to move it in a new direction. She recently led efforts to host "Messy Church" — a part of a global Christian movement that began in England in 2004.
The first "Messy Church" event will happen Friday, Oct. 25, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and will be a monthly event at the church. The free, relaxed event is for members and non-members. It includes a free dinner, informal worship, crafts and activities for all ages.
"We are really focusing on trying to connect with the community and see how we can improve the life of our neighbors," said Matos. "We want people to come together and offer them the best possible hospitality, and just make friends with one another."
Matos implemented the "Messy Church" during her time in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 2013, and said she is excited to bring it to Andover.