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Spreading the Word on the Street
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisico's leading newspaper)

San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisico's leading newspaper), May 24, 2008
Posted: May 30th, 2008

Ten-thirty p.m. in East Oakland. Sirens and gunshots ... punctuate the air. Dozens of homeless people are gathered beneath a street lamp - some in wheelchairs, some drunk, some ranting furiously to themselves. Then the Preacherman appears. Everything stops. And then, for the next half hour, there is church in the street ... where the homeless and even many criminals don't usually hang out this late at night. The Preacherman is Vincent Pannizzo, but most who come to his sermons don't know his name. Or that he was working on a doctorate at UC Berkeley when he dropped out nine years ago to begin preaching. Or that he comes from middle-class comfort in New Jersey, did a three-year hitch in the Army and once dreamed of being a history professor. To his street flock, Pannizzo is simply "the Preacherman," who shows up seven nights a week, rain or not, to gently sermonize and hand out sandwiches, blankets and the few dollars he makes through day labor. "I'm not nuts," Pannizzo said with a chuckle ... standing in the unusually tidy camp he keeps with a half-dozen other homeless people. "I'm basically just a regular guy. But at one point I began really reading the Scriptures, and they really blew me away. God gave me faith. This is what I must do." His transformation began when, as a history Ph.D. candidate, he began reading the Bible in one of its ancient Aramaic-language versions. Pannizzo said he didn't start sleeping outside until four years ago, when he decided the best way to reach his audience was to live like it. So he sold his collection of 300 scholarly books, turned in his apartment key and hit the street.

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