the value of reading: whole books and big sections

Besides putting together my visa application and trying (slowly) to get our house packed up to move, I'm trying to think through the teaching program for our new church. It's a big task and it's a really important one for this church. Since their inception, they've relied on visiting speakers to fill the pulpit. That means there hasn't been continuous or consistent teaching from the Bible. One of the reasons why I've been called to pastor this church is to do the work of consistent, expositional, rigorous and challenging teaching.

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I'm Dan. Here's how I prefer to keep in touch: By email to dan at danalcantara dot me.All of my public writing happens here on this site. My main projects are here.I got away from the social internet for my mental health and because it proved to be a terrible way to keep in touch.Hello pages are a concept introduced by the brilliant Alastair Johnston.


As of 7 August 2023, this is what's going on: I am the pastor at Ardgowan Square Evangelical Church.Studying with the Pastors' Training Course.Slowly building up some ideas for writing in public more.Loving living in the west of Scotland.

thinking more about music (plus a playlist)

When I shared about the latest release from Alvvays, I realised how much time I spend thinking about music and how I listen to it. I usually listen to albums rather than playlists. Or I'll go through what I've been enjoying lately and just add it to my queue, making a sort of disposable playlist. Occasionally, I've wished I just had something that I could put on when I don't want to think about it.

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new Alvvays is worth the wait

In general, I’ve found that there are two ways to listen to music. Self-expression-by-proxy or mood-management. I land squarely in the second category. I’ve never needed other people’s music to express how I’m feeling. Perhaps that’s because I’m a musician myself. But I very often need music to manage my emotions. To give me something different to think about. And I’ve been waiting five years for this band to add to that.

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signs of summer

While it’s been difficult trying to return to running, I have enjoyed going for walks. Yesterday, I went out with one of my sons. It was good to walk and chat and answer a million questions. Now that it’s June, the sun doesn’t set until very late so our evenings are bright. In the last couple of weeks, the hedgerows have burst into life. We had a few days where it was either rain, rain, rain or bright, blinding sun.

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what's next for my family?

It's been hard to keep this one a secret. Something that is inherent to ministry apprenticeships is that they come to an end and are supposed to be a launchpad into doing gospel ministry. I'm excited to say that I'm going to be undertaking the role of being pastor at Ardgowan Square Evangelical Church in Greenock, here in Scotland. If you'd like to follow along with my family's ministry updates, you can sign up below or visit thealcantara.

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what I didn't learn in missions training

We spend time thinking about contextualisation. Assessing whether we are capable of sharing the gospel. We spend time praying about whatever work it is that we feel God has for us to do. What never seems to be talked about in books about being a missionary is dealing with foreign immigration policy. There are good reasons for this. Every country has a different set of rules and requirements. Those rules might change depending on what country you're starting in.

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He is risen!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

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Not starting from scratch

On more than one occasion, I have had to stop running. This was always due to either illness or injury. At least since I completed the couch-to-5k program during lockdown in Warsaw. After arriving in Scotland, I suddenly found myself with an unexplained, sprained ankle. I still don't know how or when it actually happened. It wasn't while out on a run. When it came time to start running again, I always had this fear:

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using a smaller notebook

I seem to go through odd phases with the stationery that I prefer to use. For years, I was all-Moleskine-all-the-time. There was something about that that particular size (13x21cm) that just worked for me. Then I fell madly in love with the Traveler's Notebook (A5-slim). I'm on my second one now, and I've filled multiple refills. Then I discovered big notebooks. I used a Leuchtturm1917 Master Slim for a while. Before that, I used a Life Noble in A4.

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we made it two years

Two years of pandemic without a positive case in our house. Now 5/6 of us either have or had it in the last week. I have to say, I’m not a fan.

We lived happily during the war

It never ceases to amaze me how effectively poetry can describe a moment. If you'd like to read it, view this poem at the Poetry Foundation.

a week of serving, learning and eating pies

I’m recently back from a week of ministry with Maxwell Church in Kilmaurs and Kilmarnock in Ayrshire. This was an opportunity to experience a different church in a different area to see how ministry is similar and different in a new context. I was there with two fellow-Cornhill students, though my experience was slightly different as I stayed in the area overnight. From the outset, what was intended by our hosts was for us to get a glimpse of ordinary church ministry.

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Book In A Day: 1 & 2 Kings (a look back)

One of the big benefits I’ve found from my time studying with Cornhill Scotland is learning from people who have spent a long time in pastoral ministry as students of God’s Word. While that comes through in the classroom, where we spend a number of sessions working through Bible books, it is especially noteworthy when spending a single, full day getting the big brushstrokes of a book. While I’m not going to begin to try and unpack the whole day here, there were some particularly helpful things that I figured I would share.

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Stop making “the Bible in a year” a sacred calf

Every year, untold multitudes manage to read the first 11 chapters of Genesis and then they get busy enough that they stop trying to manage their reading plan. It’s a frustration that I’m very familiar with. You miss one day and then suddenly you’ve got pages and pages and pages that need to be read in order to catch up. The trouble with getting stressed about this is that nobody said you had to read the Bible in a single, calendar year.

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The constrained freedom of a small diary

Right now, I’m in the early stages of my time in full-time, gospel ministry. It’s something that I dreamed about for a long time and got close to, with a couple of churches in a couple of countries voting on whether or not to bring me on staff. The last thing I would say to describe the experience of “getting in” is to call it straightforward. But Andy Gemmill, one of my instructors at Cornhill, has often said that getting into ministry is relatively straightforward.

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the joy of the early hours

By my son’s standards, it’s still nighttime when I like to wake up. Though I’m just as groggy as anyone, rising early comes easier to me than some because I like to be up early. There’s a peace that comes with morning quiet, when everyone is still asleep and will be that way for a couple of hours. A time for drinking tea instead of coffee because the grinder will wake everyone up (note to self: maybe get a good hand grinder for early mornings).

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The Year of Establishment

I've been following along with the Cortex for a few years now and so much of what I've heard from them has helped me in various areas of work and life. Whether it was trying to juggle two jobs, a family and church ministry as a volunteer or getting my head around how to track my time once I started in ministry full time, there has been something they've covered that has helped with this.

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happy christmas!

God-willing, more writing to come in the new year!