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Church theft is sign of the times

By Bess Browning

A handmade church sign was taken by thieves less than 24 hours after it had been put in the ground.

The congregation at Sheldwich Church had never had a sign with its name and date until vicar Mike Johnson found his DIY kit and crafted a wooden board and mounted it on two posts.

But the celebration of their new sign, emblazoned with St James Circa 1070 was short-lived after thieves dug it out of the soil and wheeled it into a car, before driving off in the middle of the night before the Sunday service.

The handmade sign at Sheldwich Church.

The handmade sign at Sheldwich Church.

Mike Johnson, 75, who has been a vicar at St James’ in North Street for the past 26 years,
said: “Everyone was really pleased with the sign and they said it was just what the church needed, but we turned up on Sunday and it had gone.

“We saw wheel marks so we think they used a trailer to go and to and from their vehicle, and we believe it was definitely ‘they’ as it takes at least two people to carry it.

“Everyone is angry and shocked and wondering ‘why’.

“I’ve always been building things.

“It’s something I enjoy doing and the congregation decided we needed a sign, so I volunteered to make it.

“We get quite a lot of tourists driving past and the church doesn’t look it, but it actually dates back to 1070, so we wanted to let people know."

Vicar Mike Johnson where the church's sign was ripped out of the ground.

Vicar Mike Johnson where the church's sign was ripped out of the ground.

The main board with the writing is of thick laminated pine board with several coats of varnish. It has 10 screw holes drilled into it and the mounted letters protrude about 4cm and 2cm from the surfaced.

It was mounted on two oak posts around 6ft.

A church-goer has offered to make another sign but there are fears that one would be stolen too.

Sheldwich church

Sheldwich church

Mr Johnson added: “We like to leave our doors open to the community and have an open attitude, but there’s nothing we can do to stop this sort of rural crime.”

Police spokesman Martin Very said the sign was reported stolen between 4.30pm on Saturday, February 18 and 9.30am on Sunday, February 19.

Anyone with information should contact police on 01795 419119 quoting reference XY/7640/17, or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

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