Computers can be great sources of headaches or they can be useful tools in people’s lives. My profession, my life and calling is wrapped up in the word pastor. My wife and I have been at our current church as pastors for almost five and a half years. To some, that’s a long time; others think it’s just getting started.
I do a lot of work on my home computers; one is a desktop, and the other is a laptop. Both of them are running Simply Mepis Linux, and are working very well. The desktop has Simply Mepis 7.0 as its main operating system, while the laptop has both Mepis 7.0 and 7.9.80-beta2 running on it at full speed. Honestly, I don’t know which one I like better.
Both of my systems are set up to dual-boot, but it is a rare thing for me to ever boot into that other OS – MS Windows. I am so thankful 99.9% of my work can be done in the safe, virus-free, hassle-free Linux environment. This post is not being written to ridicule Windows as that environment is capable of doing that all by itself.
What do I use Linux for in my office? Virtually anything that’s needed. I’m not trying to be cute, but it’s still the truth. I’ll attempt detailing some things I routinely use Linux for in my duties as pastor of a small church.
My office software of choice is OpenOffice.org (OOo), though I only use a couple of its several modules. Sermon preparation is done using Writer, BibleTime and a few internet Bible study sites. It’s easy to find the scriptures in need, then copy and paste them into my sermon template. I find Writer is extremely easy to use, and meets all my word processing needs.
Several years ago, I was trying to set up a sermon template, but ran into lots of difficulties because I just didn’t know what I was doing. A couple of trips to the OOo forum had me up and running in no time at all. That’s a great group of people over there, and were willing to spend lots of time with a newbie; that’s a great help for someone who was struggling with a simple task.
The sermon template is structured for ease of use. When I fire it up, I am greeted with a nearly blank page; it only has the date and morning service showing. I type the message title, then arrow down below the date. As soon as I enter the scripture text, formatting is applied automatically. I then enter the body of the message, and when scriptures are included, I just use my pre-made style to change the text’s formatting; this is done using the Styles and Formatting module.
Beginning with page two, the header displays the message title, page count/number of pages, written by [my name]; all of this done automatically because of the template’s design. This may seem simple and insignificant, but spending time setting up this template saves a great deal of time in the long run.
MEMBER AND VISITOR LISTS:
Several years ago, before switching to Linux, I used OpenOffice on my Windows machine, and it worked just fine. I wanted to keep track of visitors and members in my church, so I set out to learn the best way to handle the situation. Once again, I found myself at the OOo forum asking the gurus how to best take care of the task at hand. I got several good answers, but the one which appealed to me the most was to set up an external database and use OOo as the front-end. Sounded simple enough, but the plan was wrought with one headache after another. MySQL and OOo didn’t play very well in that environment, but I found an article that walked me through the details, and I soon had a complete package going.
In Linux, the task is much easier. Setting up MySQL in Mepis is easy: “apt-get install mysql mysql-server mysql-admin” does the trick. Everything that’s needed is pulled in for the install. You also need “libmysql-java”, so get that while you’re at it. One more thing that’s needed is “mysql-connector-java-3.1.12” which you can get from the MySQL site. I’m quite sure the latest connector is newer than the one I’m using, though. This is not meant to detail every step, just to give an overview.
Create your database in MySQL and create your tables in OOo. Now, you experts will probably have lots to say about my method, but this works very well for me, and it takes care of all my database needs. There are plenty of Linux programs to do what I’ve set up on my computer, but I have found this works best for me. Linux is great to offer several choices.
What I’ve described is a sample of tasks I get done using OOo and Linux. There’s much more to tell, but it will have to wait for another time. I am no expert on Linux, MySQL or OOo, but use them to take care of part of what I do in ministry. If you use Linux, you know it to be a safe and solid operating system. It’s nice to get my work done and not have to be concerned with all the headaches associated with Windows maintenance.