Lost and found.
A special celebration quilt that went missing from Trinity Episcopal Church two and a half years ago has unexpectedly ended up back at its rightful home.
The story of its loss began in the spring of 2009. That's when the quilt, a months-long labor of love that was stitched to commemorate the church's successful capital campaign, had been placed in a cotton bag and set on a church bench in anticipation of hanging it in the fellowship hall. But before that could happen, church members theorized an indigent attending the Sunday Suppers held at Trinity inadvertently picked up the bag with the quilt inside.
Though attempts were made via the media to find it and pleas were rendered for its no-questions-asked safe return, the quilt remained unaccounted for.
"The best we had hoped for was that somebody had wrapped their baby in it," said Maggie Michaud, wife of Trinity's pastor, Bruce Michaud. "The worst was that it was put in a dumpster somewhere."
Some members of the church never gave up hope. They placed the desire for the quilt's return on their regular church prayer list, then continued to pray faithfully for two and a half years.
And then last week, the "found" part of the story unfolded.
Michaud was about to climb into his car and head out on a hospital call when a man approached him in front of the church.
"Are you the pastor?" the man asked.
Satisfied with Michaud's response, the man handed him a bag and told him simply, "This belongs to your church."
Inside the bag, Michaud discovered the long missing quilt.
"I was stunned when I realized what he had just handed me," Michaud said. "I never expected to see the quilt again, and was maybe even glad to have forgotten it, since I was the one who had somewhat carelessly left it on the bench."
The quilt in question had been set in its bag in the very spot where the church routinely places bags of clothing or blankets for their Sunday Supper guests, who rely on Trinity for an occasional warm meal and other gifts of love. Michaud said the man who he calls "Joe" told him he'd taken the bag, then moved with it to Alabama, where it had stayed in the bag for the next two and a half years.
"Why Joe did not phone us, I can only surmise," Michaud said. "A lack of funds perhaps, or even a lack of literacy. In any case, I respect an apparent integrity."
Michaud was so amazed by the unexpected return of the quilt that he did little more than get Joe's name and express his profound thanks. Now, with more to time reflect on their miracle, he and the church are hoping to do more for the man.
"I have Joe's last name, and am trying to track him down," Michaud said. "Those of us most closely involved in the incident want to say a more resounding thank you, and to see whether he could still use a blanket."
Sharing in the joy of this fortunate turn of events is Joana Jackson, the woman who made the quilt.
"I started crying when I heard the news," Jackson said. "I was just so excited."
A long-time quilter, she had been tasked back in 2008 by her pastor to create a quilted wall-hanging to celebrate the capital campaign that enabled Trinity to install a long-needed roof on the church building.
Jackson, honored with the request, gave the project considerable thought before coming up with a "Tree of Life" concept that included painstakingly embroidered and applied leaves bearing the names of all in whose memory church members had given to the campaign. The last she had seen of the completed quilt was when she had put it in the bag and given it to the church secretary before heading downstate to Waterford for the winter.
She knew something was amiss two and half years ago when she received an email asking if she'd picked up the quilt from the church.
"I told them 'no,' that couldn't have been possible because I'm wasn't even up there in Alpena yet," Jackson said. "The quilt had mysteriously walked off."
She remembers everyone being quite upset about the situation, herself included, though the congregation agreed to ask for some divine intervention by placing it on the prayer list. Just two weeks before the quilt was safely returned, consideration had been given to finally removing the prayer petition from that list, though Jackson said church member Cynthia Taylor, in particular, insisted it remain there.
"They thought about taking it off because they said it might be making me upset to see it there as a constant reminder," Jackson said. "I said 'no,' it doesn't bother me. I always have hope that it will turn up. Cynthia Taylor was just adamant that it stay on the prayer list."
During last Sunday's service, Michaud conducted a dedication of the quilt. Afterward, plans called for quickly hanging it in its originally intended location.
As for all of those like Jackson and Taylor who remained steadfast in their belief in the power of prayer, they were given a standing ovation.