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Rev. Melody Rutherford, M.Div.

On the Front Lines: Melody Rutherford

Rev. Melody Rutherford, M.Div., spends her days at Roswell Park caring for the spiritual needs of our patients. Her ultimate goal is to help them feel spiritually fulfilled.

“Melody is a compassionate minister who values her work as a spiritual care provider,” says Beth Lenegan, PhD, Director of Spiritual Care. Lenegan was quick to note that Rutherford has been readily available for patients prior to and during the COVID-19 crisis.

At 21, Rutherford became a minister and learned to preach and visit the sick, but she wanted to help even more. As a trainer for the chaplain program at Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo, she taught others to care for the spiritual needs of patients. In 2011, Rutherford returned to school to obtain a master’s degree in divinity so she could become a chaplain. She had heard of a full-time position at Roswell Park, a place others had said so many wonderful things about, so she had to come see it for herself.

Since then, Rutherford has explored many facets of spiritual work. She feels “blessed to be welcomed to patients’ journeys,” and says that she’s seen to a wide variety of spiritual needs. Sometimes, the visit is as simple as sitting in silence. Other times, she reads to patients, sings with them, prays with them, whatever they may request or require. “There’s no agenda, no checklist,” she says. “It’s active listening, and sometimes silence.”

Rutherford ventures from patient room to patient room, offering the services of Spiritual Care. While some patients politely decline her services, others embrace what she and the Spiritual Care team have to offer. She builds relationships with patients, saying that she can offer a different perspective to their spiritual journeys – and often, her presence seems to energize them, which helps to outline a game plan for each of them.

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Over the years, Rutherford has even been involved in patients’ homegoing services or funeral arrangements. She says a lot of what she does is just offering a hand if a patient is interested, and that as chaplains, “We don’t take for granted when we can cross the threshold.” Recently, Rutherford has been working more closely with the Palliative Care Department, which has given her new appreciation for life and death and the spiritual path each patient follows.

To ensure the highest care for our patients, Rutherford believes that first, we must care for ourselves. She feels strength in her spiritual journey, and takes time each day to reflect on what’s happened through her shift. She meditates, prays, listens to music and finds time to restore herself.