BROOKINGS COUNTY, S.D. (KELO) — Kindness, love and peace–are all things most people associate with a church. But a couple of Sundays back, the Brookings County sheriff was called out to a small country church, called Singsaas because people were concerned about their safety.

To understand what led up to weapons being brought to a cemetery meeting at Singsaas Church in Brookings County on Sunday, June 12th, you need to know a little background about the changes that took place a couple of years ago.

Jason Hartung took over as pastor of Singsaas Church. At that time, this historic Norwegian Lutheran Church was moving to become non-denominational. But some of the original parishioners took issue with how that change was handled.

Jason Hartung is the pastor at Singsaas Church in Brookings County

“I still consider myself a member of the Singsaas Free Lutheran Congregation whose constitution was not properly voted out,” Jay Nelson said.

“And if a church congregation does desire to make changes, to go through the due process of the law. We did that,” Hartung said.ADVERTISING

Nelson alleges that Hartung has a history of this kind of thing.

“Our concern with the pastor is after having looked at multiple of his past congregations, is just a long history of disruptions.

KELOLAND Investigates spoke with two previous senior pastors who Hartung served under. Neither wanted to go on camera, but both said there were issues when Hartung was at their churches.

Kennecke: Did you have a conflict with the pastor in Spearfish when you went there?
Hartung: The pastor in Spearfish, he’d been there for many years. We were there to help. And there was some conflict within the church, with some church members toward him.

Hartung says he had nothing to do with the pastor there being voted out and says he isn’t behind the conflict at Singsaas today.

“And a lot of times this is like to be blown up to there’s a huge divide. Maybe it’s only a few that are very loud,” Hartung said.

But guns at the church spoke louder than words at the cemetery meeting on June 12th.

The sheriff was called to Singsaas church on June 12th, after a report of an AR-15 inside and armed guards at the doors of the church for a cemetery meeting.

“My biggest fear in all of this is just that society is just degrading. To find ourselves in a position like this–when there are so many solutions that could be beneficial to everyone. It just doesn’t seem that this what God meant for his church and his followers,” Jay Nelson said.

We look for the truth behind this “Big Conflict at a Little Country Church” Thursday in our KELOLAND News investigation at ten.