The congregation was deep in prayer when the pastor got up from his seat at the pulpit, two long knives hidden under his shirt, and leaned in toward another clergy member — his wife of 20 years.

Together, Elisha Misiko and Ann Mughoi had built and grown Ground for God’s Gospel, a tin-roofed church in the seaside Kenyan city of Mombasa. But now, the husband-and-wife pastors were feuding over how to run their shrinking congregation, and Misiko, 55, thought she was trying to force him out, authorities told local news outlets.

So he went up to Mughoi and stabbed her repeatedly. Then, he slit his throat. Hours later, they were pronounced dead.

“It has been a long-standing dispute,” Julius Kiragu, a Mombasa police commander, said in a video published by the Daily Nation, Kenya’s largest newspaper. “The wife, or the senior pastor, she was the leader of the church. She was pushing away the husband, who was just an assistant pastor.”

The atrocity marked a shocking start to the year for Kenya’s Christian population, which makes up over three-quarters of the East African country.

Misiko and Mughoi had founded the church about eight years ago, amassing a large following that rivaled some more-established congregations in their densely populated community, near the shores of the Indian Ocean. But the church was quickly plagued by the couple’s constant troubles, Kenyan news outlets reported. The congregation dwindled.

In 2017, Misiko was arrested after his wife accused him of threatening to kill her, according to CNN. The following year, he allegedly destroyed equipment inside the church, and was temporarily barred from entering the premises. After the pastors began living apart two years ago, they sought help from other church leaders but could not manage to settle their differences.

“The two reported their family wrangles at our stations a number of times. The matter is still under investigation but we can reveal that the two had marital disputes for months,” Kiragu, the police commander, told the Daily Nation.

By Sunday, less than 100 people showed up for the service. At around 9 a.m., Misiko joined them, taking a seat next to his wife on the pulpit.

Services were already underway when he approached her, appearing to whisper something in her ear, eyewitnesses told police. Instead, he pulled out two knives from under his shirt and stabbed her twice in the back.

When Misiko tried to slit his wife’s throat, she blocked him, injuring her hand, Mtengo Amuri, a village elder, told the Daily Nation.

As worshipers in the crowd tried to intervene, Misiko, believing his wife was dead, turned the knife on himself. He slit his throat and stabbed himself three times in the stomach, authorities said.

He died instantly, and she died several hours later. They were both taken to the same hospital, and then the same mortuary.

On Tuesday, police in Mombasa revealed they had found a 17-page, handwritten suicide note, titled, “Betrayal and Consequences,” in which Misiko accused his estranged wife of stealing away their land, the church and their four children.

“When we got married, life was hard,” he wrote, according to the Star newspaper in Kenya. He was forced to begin peddling a handcart around the beachfront city, he said, and took out a bank loan to purchase a plot of land.

After they split up, he claimed Mughoi falsely wrote on social media that he didn’t pay child support or buy clothes for them. He accused her of trying to keep him away from their children, even as he sent her 90 percent of his monthly earnings and she began seeing another man.

He wrote he was devastated when he read a note from one of his children, saying, “they had found a good father who took care of them.”

In addition, he said in the note, Mughoi had tried to change the ownership of the church to only herself.

“She took away everything we accumulated for over 19 years,” he wrote, according to the Star. “She took away my plot of land and church equipment by force.”

Even still, Pastor Dennis Siria of the Southern Presbyterian Church said those tensions did not need to end in such horror. Siria had nurtured the couple into the ministry and unsuccessfully tried to help them work through their differences.

“This would have been avoided if the two had heeded our call for reconciliation,” he told the Daily Nation.