By Don Wilcock
The Rev. Bethenia Rouse passed away on Wednesday (December 28) at age 81. The pastor of the Christian Faith Church in Schenectady, she along with TV talk host Carla Page and the late Marva Robinson, were the tenuous but inspirational thread that tied together my activities in blues, gospel and soul with the local African American community. I have seen the healing powers of music bring the races closer together, and Rev. Rouse was a cornerstone to my ongoing efforts to facilitate those connections.
In the early ’90s before my wife Shelly and I started the Northeast Blues Society, Rev. Rouse performed a gospel set at Takin’ It to the Streets, a music festival we presented in Schenectady’s Central Park. Joan Osborne, who was also on the bill, was so moved by Rev. Rouse’s performance that she took her into a recording studio with the Holmes Brothers and recorded an album, A Change Will Come. This was years before “One of Us” established Joan Osborne as a hit maker with its question of what God would be like if he were just “a slob” like the rest of us.