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Minister puts 'penguin in the pews'

If you're already a penguinista, Pastor Parris is preaching to the choir. But for those who aren't converted to open source, this minister is spreading the gospel of Linux and practicing what he preaches.

Ordained minister Don Parris has plenty of experience spreading the good word -- about Linux.

Parris is planting a new church in Charlotte, N.C., the Matheteuo Christian Fellowship. "Matheteuo" translates to "make disciples," and Parris has extended this directive to include Linux disciples. His PDF book, Penguin in the Pew has been downloaded more than 1,000 times.

Additionally, Parris has launched a computer training class as part of Matheteuo's educational ministry. The class teaches word processing skills and computer literacy, aiming to give students the ability to apply their knowledge to a variety of different applications and computer tasks -- regardless of the operating system.

Much like the wise man who built his house on solid rock, Parris built Matheteuo's IT foundations on Linux…but mainly because the foolish man's beachfront property was simply too expensive.

"I knew we could afford to run Linux," Parris said, estimating that while Windows might cost more than $80 a license for each of the church's 20 donated computers, Linux would cost only $80 total.

Typically, a church requires some type of word-processing capability. Web sites can help with visibility and stewardship and provide the means for reaching shut-in members who cannot attend traditional worship services. Parris pointed out that many churches now use presentation software to project hymn lyrics but that other possible applications might include musical score notation and sound production.

"The bigger the church, the more hardware and software you're going to have to have," Parris said. A church might require a server PC and several workstations, along with some type of church management software. Currently there is no Linux software developed specifically for church management, but Parris is at work on a MySQL database called the "Church Administration Database," or CHADDB, available on the Matheteuo site.

These needs could be served by any type of operating system. But Parris pointed out that the philosophy and ethics of Linux -- not to mention the affordability -- make it a choice more closely-aligned with the philosophy of the church, and a good fit for any non-profit organization.

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