SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The polite whisper in the old church sanctuary was almost deafening. Across two sessions, roughly 60 friends of Diane and Rachel Staudte came together for the first time as a group to share stories of the women accused of murder.
Springfield Police said Diane and Rachel Staudte confessed to using antifreeze to poison Mark, Shaun, and Sarah Staudte. Sarah is the only one still alive.
By all accounts, the mother and daughter spent much of their time at Redeemer Lutheran Church. Diane played the organ and sang in the choir while Rachel played the flute and other instruments. One woman said Diane was quick to come up with a spiritual saying to reflect the lives of others. That same woman now struggles to comprehend the charges.
"There's been some disbelief for sure, maybe some anger, maybe some other things, hurt, sadness, sorrow," said Tom Seboldt, president of the Redeemer congregation. "It's just like losing somebody in your family. There's going to be some grief."
Most did not speak of Mark or Shaun, the two people whose lives were lost. The medical examiner ruled both deaths to be natural. Police opened an investigation to see if two anonymous tips and the subsequent alleged poisoning confessions are forensically true.
What people did speak about is if the current situation could have been prevented.
"I've prayed about it a lot," said Seboldt. "I just have to give things I don't understand to God and let Him kind of bear those burdens."
Deborah Kukal was one of the people at the session. As a psychologist, she is trained to listen and counsel others. This group, however, was far more personal to Kukal.
"There are a lot of people who were processing it in different ways and able to help each other. Kind of stand by each other and share insights and understanding and share a shoulder to cry on," said Kukal, a member of Redeemer. "This was a really very personal and intimate way to try and help people come to grip with their feelings."
Many spoke about being hurt, afraid, or duped by Diane Staudte. Friends admitted their recollections were colored by intense media coverage over the past eight days.
"We want to let people talk about it and give them comfort and let them know that God is with them and will help them through this along with their congregation family," said Seboldt. "This and anything else in their lives that may come as a shock or surprise to them."
Throughout all the grief and pain, one overwhelming theme united the groups: love.
"I appreciate about our church that we came together to find ways to support each other, to build each other up, it's important for people to love each other at these times," said Kukal.
Some members questioned the wellbeing of Diane and Rachel while they were in the jail. Pastors assured them the pair would have access to spiritual leaders, services, and bibles as they await their court dates for the murder charges.
"There are many things that we all have to consider. How do we be the church? How do we live in the truth? How do we support one another? How do we grow? How do we find ways to be more transparent and to help other people be more transparent? And to share who they are and what their struggles are," questioned Kukal. "It's important to find someone that you can share with, especially when it's something as shocking as this."
Small group sessions within the church may continue. It depends if the members want to keep discussing their feelings about their friends or not. Whether or not anything is officially organized, members said they would strive to have a love of faith, love of community, and love for those accused of murder.
"God can make good from anything and He does," said Seboldt. "And He will be with us through all of this."