The organization representing United churches in northeastern Ontario says the Sudbury reverend charged in the death of his wife will not be taking part in this weekend's Easter ceremonies.
The minister at St. Stephen's on the Hill United Church, Rev. Nico VanderStoel, was charged on Wednesday by Sudbury police with manslaughter and failing to provide the necessities of life.
The executive secretary of the Manitou Conference that represents the United churches in the northeast said the church council is doing everything it can to support the congregation at this time.
"There are lots of activities happening over the next short while, and we've taken steps to make sure that we have ministry personnel to carry out those responsibilities in the absence," Reverend Dr. Will Kunder said.
Kunder said this weekend's Easter ceremonies will likely be given by a local retired minister.
Kunder added he will be in Sudbury Thursday night to meet with members of the church council, and that VanderStoel, 74, will not be participating in any ministerial duties until his case is resolved.
"Essentially what must happen in any criminal charge is to make a determination about whether or not that ministry person will be allowed to continue to function as a ministry person in the United Church," Kunder said.
"And so that meeting has taken place and the decision has been made that, pending the final disposition of this matter, he will not be allowed to continue to function as a ministry person."
Suspending VanderStoel’s duties "will be a challenge for both him and his congregation," he added.
"There's a profound sadness in the events that have been reported, [and] concern both for our ministry person and for the congregation at St. Stephen's on the Hill."
A representative with the United Church of Canada said legal costs with cases like this are not normally paid for by the church.
Charge 'speaks for itself'
After two years of investigation, Sudbury police allege VanderStoel didn't do enough to care for his 66-year-old wife, Heather, who had multiple sclerosis.
Constable Meghan O'Malley said it's unusual for these types of charges to be laid against a caregiver.
"I don't want this to cause people to worry if they're doing enough for an ailing parent or a friend they're responsible for," she said.
"I think failing to provide the necessities of life kind of speaks for itself."
O'Malley said cases with medical evidence tend to take longer to investigate.
"It's not a cut and dry type of thing," she said.
"As police officers, we're investigators. But when it comes to medical, we have to get the information and send it away to someone who can formulate an opinion, a medical opinion, and we're not able to do that."