Give me a sign! Stolen Minton United Church sign found and returned one year later

Give me a sign!  Stolen Minton United Church sign found and returned one year later
Caretaker Wendall Conner and Artist Trevor McKinven with the newly returned Minton United Church sign (Photo : William Crooks)
Interior of Minton United Church
Painting by Trevor McKinven of the interior of Minton United Church


In a surprising turn of events, the six-foot-wide wooden sign that had adorned the Minton United Church in Hatley Township for over a decade has been found and returned to its rightful place.

The sign, crafted by local artist Trevor McKinven, was stolen in June 2023, leaving the community baffled and saddened. Now, after more than a year of uncertainty, the sign’s recovery has brought relief and joy to the church and its supporters. The Record spoke with McKinven and Wendall Conner, church caretaker, on the scene July 9.

Theft in the night

The disappearance of the sign was first noticed on the morning of June 3, 2023. Brian Conner, along with his father Wendall, who is a member of the church board, discovered that the sign had been removed from its posts during the night. “It was a shock to all of us,” said Wendall Conner. “We decided not to file a police report, hoping it might turn up on its own.”

McKinven, who had created the sign about ten years prior, was deeply affected by the theft. “It felt like a personal attack on the community and the church’s history,” he recalled. The theft required significant planning and effort, as the sign was heavy and securely mounted. “They must have had tools and a plan. It wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing.”

A year of searching and fundraising

Despite their initial hope that the sign would reappear, the community soon realized they might need to replace it. McKinven, who had experienced the theft of his artwork before, took a proactive approach. He organized a fundraiser, selling high-quality prints of his paintings of the church’s interior to cover the costs of creating a new sign. “I wanted to turn my frustration into something positive for the community,” he explained.

For over a year, there were no leads. The sign’s disappearance remained a mystery, despite the efforts of McKinven, the Conner family, and other community members who scoured the area and posted about the missing sign on social media.

The unexpected discovery

Recently, the mystery took an unexpected turn. A contractor working on a house in Magog noticed a large wooden sign leaning against a shed. He inquired with the new homeowner, who had bought the house about a year ago and claimed the sign was already there when he moved in.

Recognizing that it might be something important, the contractor mentioned it to his daughter, who works in North Hatley. She immediately recalled the missing sign from conversations in town a year prior.

The contractor’s daughter visited Wendall Conner and told him about her father’s discovery. “She showed up one evening after supper and said her father had found something that belonged to us,” Conner recounted. “At first, I didn’t know what she was talking about, but then it clicked.”

Returning the sign

Arrangements were quickly made to retrieve the sign. “Brian and I went to pick it up the next day,” said Conner. “It was a relief to see it again.” Despite some minor damage from being tossed around, the sign was largely intact. McKinven plans to touch it up before re-mounting it securely. “I’m going to add some new touches to it, incorporating more of the church’s interior details,” he shared. “The interior is so beautiful, and I want to reflect that in the new design.”

The discovery of the sign has been a source of joy and excitement for the community. “It’s amazing how it all happened,” Conner said. “We were gearing up to make a new sign, and then this one just showed up out of nowhere. It’s a bit of a miracle.”

Community reaction

The return of the sign has been met with widespread relief and celebration. “It’s like a piece of our history has come back,” said McKinven. “The church is more than just a building; it’s a symbol of our community’s resilience and spirit.”

For the Conner family and other church members, the sign’s return is a testament to the power of community and perseverance. “We never gave up hope,” Wendall Conner remarked. “And now, seeing it back where it belongs, it feels like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders.”

Looking ahead

With the sign back in its rightful place, the Minton United Church is preparing for its upcoming service on July 21. McKinven is working on the final touches to ensure the sign is ready to be re-installed. “I’m excited to see it back up,” he said. “It’s going to be a great day for the church and the community.”

As the church prepares for the service, the community is reflecting on the past year’s events and the lessons learned. “It’s been a journey, but we’re stronger for it,” said Conner. “We’ve seen the power of coming together and supporting each other. That’s what this church is all about.”

For more information on the church’s upcoming service, contact Mead Baldwin at:

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