Beliefnet
WICHITA, Kan., Feb. 28 - As members of his congregation took their seats in the sanctuary on Sunday, Pastor Michael Clark stood in the back and leaned against a wall.

He put his clasped hands to his face, closed his eyes and took a quiet moment. Within minutes, he was before the congregation of Christ Lutheran Church, beginning to guide them through what he says will be a long journey of healing.

The 8:15 a.m. service was the first time he had spoken to his congregation since the church's board president, Dennis Rader, was arrested Friday by Wichita authorities who allege he is the BTK killer, the worst serial murderer in Kansas history.

"This is a difficult day, a difficult time," Clark said. "We're moving into a phase of life we do not understand."

For several hours Sunday morning, through two services, members of Christ Lutheran in Park City, a Wichita suburb, leaned on one another and on Clark to get through their shock and disbelief.

Just a week ago, Rader was involved in the 10:45 a.m. service, an usher who helped collect the offering. Now he is suspected of 10 homicides that occurred from 1974 to 1991.

Rader remained jailed Sunday at an undisclosed location. Law enforcement officials said they plan to turn the case over to prosecutors early this week. It was unclear when Rader would go before a judge or whether he had a lawyer.

Police have disclosed little about how they identified Rader as a suspect and have said they will not comment further on the case.

Rader's wife of more than 30 years, his mother and his in-laws have gone into what Clark called "seclusion."

If authorities are correct and Rader is BTK - a nickname the killer gave himself which stands for "bind, torture, kill" - then all the while his crimes were terrorizing the Wichita area, he was attending Sunday services and emerging as a leader at Christ Lutheran.

"What runs through my mind is, why was he faking it all this time?" said Lloyd Schmidt, a past church board president. "Why did he lead the congregation on like that? He knew he would get caught. ... I think he's betrayed people. He made us think he was something he wasn't."

Rader is accused of killing, among others, a family of four; a widow who lived just three doors down from him; and a young woman whose brother fought with BTK and survived.

"I can't believe what they are saying is the Dennis Rader I've known for 30 years," said Paul Carlstedt, whom Rader replaced as board president in January. He thought of Rader as "a very good person."

Just days before his arrest, Rader brought spaghetti sauce and salad to a church supper, though he was unable to attend himself, Carlstedt said.

While many Park City residents describe a different Rader, one who as a town compliance officer harassed residents over city codes and would even measure grass with a ruler, church members say they knew someone different.

They say Rader could be called on to mow a member's lawn or help with an event. He frequently bragged about his two grown children who live out of state, and he appeared to be a great husband.

When church member Bob Smyser moved out of state for a few years, Rader checked on his mother for him.

"He was just a really caring person," Smyser said Sunday just before the 10:45 a.m. service, where he frequently served as an usher alongside Rader.

Since Friday, Smyser has had to face the description of Rader that authorities give: a serial killer who thirsted for notoriety.

Smyser has had to try to explain it all to his children.

He and his wife sat down with their two older children, ages 5 and 7, on Saturday, after the children had seen Rader's photograph on television.

"My 5-year-old son said, `That's the man who collects money with you in the plates,'" Smyser recalled. "I said, `Yes, it is.'"

Smyser said he struggled with what to say next.

"I'm not sure what to tell him. I'm not sure what to tell myself."

His son spoke first.

"`Daddy, he tricked us, didn't he?'"

"That's as simple as it gets," Smyser said.

Clark told his congregation that the days ahead will be rough. As they pray for the families of BTK's victims, give support to Rader's family and reserve judgment on Rader himself, Clark told his congregation to be prepared for emotions "from A to Z."

"Anger, sorrow, betrayal, hurt, sadness - it will be there," he said.

Many members say in just two days they've already experienced many of those, especially the feeling of betrayal.

Church member Kevin Smith said he's trying to give Rader the benefit of doubt.

"Did he use us to hide, or did he have a double personality that he didn't show here? All those questions come to me," Smith said. "I'm hoping there is a double personality and that he didn't use us to hide. It doesn't make it better, but it explains it."

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