The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Images of hope

Congregation echoes pastor: 'Not the Dennis Rader I know'

For the pastor and members of Christ Lutheran Church, Wichita, Kan., the days since Feb. 25 are a series of images. One of Pastor Michael G. Clark's most vivid images came at 12:29 p.m. that day. With his Sunday sermon safely tucked away, he strolled though the narthex to leave for lunch.

Instead he was met by a police investigator and three officers — there to search the church and inform him that the president of the church council had been arrested that morning as the suspected BTK serial killer.

"It took a good half hour for me to comprehend what the investigator had said," recalls Clark from the same office chair he'd sat in that day. "It just plain didn't make sense. No, not the Dennis Rader I know."

Rader has been a member of this 400-member congregation on the outskirts of Wichita for 35 years (April, page 39). His wife, Paula, and her parents are charter members. He was an usher and scout leader, and a schedule hanging in the narthex indicated he was to count the offering Feb. 27. Instead he was sitting in a county jail cell charged with killing 10 people.

BTK — "bind, torture and kill"— is the name the killer gave himself in correspondence with police and media since the first killing in January 1974. Correspondence stopped in 1979 but resumed in March 2004 after the Wichita Eagle published a 30th anniversary story.

Other than lawyers and the jail chaplain, at presstime Clark had been the only one to visit Rader since the arrest, going there at least twice a week. The man who sits in the cell, Clark repeats, "is not the Dennis I know."

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