Faithful Finds: Uncovering Treasure at a Church Jumble, Craft or Book Sale

Scotland Churches Trust

Scotland’s Churches Trust

10 May 2024

With the late spring sunshine finally beginning to warm every corner of the country and beautiful blossom brightening the trees, it’s that time of year when many Scottish churches open their doors for their eagerly anticipated jumble sales, coffee mornings, craft fairs, book sales, seasonal fêtes and sales of work.

For rural and urban communities alike, these occasions are so much more than just another run-of-the-mill calendar event. For many villages, towns and neighbourhoods they have become a beloved tradition, a celebration of community spirit and, most importantly, they are one of the best opportunities around to find an absolute treasure hidden among a mountain bric-a-brac!

Often, relatively modest, A-boards on the nearby pavements provide the only clue to the nature of the day’s offer inside the nearby church or its hall. Occasionally colourful bunting attached to the walls and railings might flutter in the breeze, shepherding folks to an entrance.

There can sometimes be a wee bit of a buzz of excitement in the air as you draw closer to a church at the beginning of a sale day. Crowds of early-bird bargain hunters have been known to gather outside, eagerly awaiting the doors being opened.

If you arrive a little after any queues have dispersed, when you step inside, you’re usually immediately greeted by the welcoming clamour of fellow bargain-hunters and possibly the delicious aroma of freshly baked cakes and warm coffee wafting from the church kitchen.

Every visitor has a different first stop once inside. For some, the bric-a-brac table will be the first call. A haven for those intent on rummaging through a delightful assortment of knick-knacks, vintage items, household goods, games, toys, clothing and curiosities. From collectible teacups to old vinyl records, you simply never know what gem you might unearth. It’s environmentally friendly too, recycling useful unwanted items to new homes, and with every single purchase you are contributing to the expensive upkeep and running costs of the community building you are currently in or possibly supporting one of that church’s varied charitable initiatives.

“It’s environmentally friendly too, recycling useful unwanted items to new homes…”

Other visitors immediately make a beeline to the plant stall, where an array of vibrant blooms, verdant greenery and potted herbs lie waiting to tempt the green-fingered among us to open our wallets! There’s something quite special about buying plants from a sale of work rather than a garden centre. Every pot seems to carry with it a sense of the care taken by the local volunteer who grew and nurtured it before donating it to the table before you. Whether it’s a hardy perennial for your garden or a delicate houseplant to brighten your home, each purchase feels like a small investment in the growth and renewal of your own home and garden and your local community.

“…Each purchase feels like a small investment in the growth and renewal of your own home and garden and your local community.”

If you don’t have a green thumb, you might instead head straight for the book stall. Here, tables often groan under the weight of well-loved novels, forgotten classics and dog-eared paperbacks. Some churches give over an entire day or weekend entirely to book selling, these are always a book lover’s paradise. Tables at these events are usually segregated by subject matter, fiction and non-fiction, alphabetically, or antiquarian,  special editions and more. You can usually find maps, artwork and other ephemera too, you simply never know what will turn up!

Your bags bursting with books, begonias and bowling balls, it’s time to reward yourself with a well-deserved sit down and a steaming cup of tea and something sweet from the home baking stall. Here, friendly volunteers will be on hand to offer an array of sweet treats, from traditional scones to contemporary cupcakes and everything in between. As you sip your tea and nibble on your chosen fayre, you might chat with fellow visitors, swapping stories and sharing accounts of what bargains you have found (and missed!). It’s a moment of warmth and camaraderie, a chance to connect with others and forge new friendships in your local community.

Of course, no visit to a jumble sale or sale of work would be complete without taking a quick tour of the church itself. Most events are held in adjacent halls, so many visitors will take a moment to step into the nearby sanctuary, wherever possible, and pause for a moment or two to soak up the calm and serene atmosphere within. The contrast with the hustle and bustle of the busy room next door can sometimes be quite startling. Stained glass windows often cast colourful sun-dappled patterns on the walls and floors, plaques and memorials provide a brief connection with the lives of generations long-gone and the intricate carvings around the room and colourful paintings adorning the walls lift the spirits.

As your visit draws to a close and you bid farewell to the jumble sale, you may carry away more than just a bag full of treasures. You’ve also made a hugely positive contribution to the environment, your neighbourhood, the church building fund or its favoured charity. Whether it was held in the smallest of kirks or the grandest of churches, hopefully you felt a little of the joy that always accompanies reconnecting with and positively contributing to your local community. That’s got to be worth half an hour of anyone’s time, hasn’t it?

There is a superb selection of events like those described above happening across Scotland in the coming days as part of Christian Aid Week, further details HERE, but do also follow your local church’s social media pages to find out when their next community event takes place.

More importantly, even if you hadn’t planned to go along to such an event when you left your house on any given day, whenever you see a “Church Open” or “Jumble Sale Today” sign on a pavement, don’t worry if you’ve never set foot inside before, just head straight in!