Best Street-Corner Preacher

The Reverend Cecil Rogers

Another sweltering day at Delmar and Kingshighway. People wait on buses, cars stop at traffic signals, an ambulance screams by. Above this din, one voice rises, the voice of the Reverend Cecil Rogers, fervent and booming. There's no ignoring him -- this man is broadcasting. Moved by the spirit and bathed in sweat, he spouts into a microphone, his words gushing from a scratchy loudspeaker -- he's half-unintelligible, but the message is clear: "Mend your ways. Turn toward God. Repent and be saved." It's a message Rogers has been delivering since 1981, when he began to recover from a stroke.

A guest preacher at the Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church, Rogers prefers to evangelize on the city streets. "Anybody can preach behind walls," he offers, "but to be called out to the highways and the hedges -- that's a special call." He never solicits donations, yet preaching has earned him taunts, even arrests for peace disturbance. It's the thank-yous that make it worthwhile. "Two young men recently came to me," says Rogers. "They'd decided to give their life to the Lord, and they told me they're glad I'm out there doing the good work, don't let nothing stop me, keep on lifting up Jesus, 'cause if ever there was a time we need to lift him up, the time is now."

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