This is really god's church:
Ten-thirty p.m. in East Oakland. Sirens and gunshots, the soundtrack of this stretch of Fruitvale Avenue, 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.
"What are we here for, brothers and sisters?" the 39-year-old man with the neatly trimmed beard calls out quietly as he takes a spot beneath the lamp. He slowly pulls a small Bible from the pocket of his paint-spattered sweatshirt.
"To pray with you," a few call back. "Thank God you're here," others say. Some bow their heads and clench their eyes shut. Most simply stand and wait, silent.
"Amen," the Preacherman says. He opens the book.
And then, for the next half hour, there is church in the street at the corner of Foothill and Coolidge, 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.