Father Tim's story

Father Timothy Lipscomb

I’m Father Timothy Lipscomb, Vicar of Preston, and I’m a trustee of Emmaus Preston, which I’ve done for the past 12 years.

When I came to Preston I’d been working for another similar charity called English Churches Housing Group and we did a fairly similar think although people didn’t work like they do at Emmaus. I wanted to get involved in a similar sort of thing. They didn’t have English Churches Housing Group in Preston but they did have Emmaus and I asked about it. I was speaking to a few people and they said ‘why don’t you join us’, so I did.

Because I’ve always worked in fairly tough environments and I’ve been in parishes where people don’t go because it’s tough, I’m aware of homelessness and what it’s like to live on the poverty line. Not only that, I can’t bear to think of being warm and cosy and well fed when there are people sleeping in the parks, garages and doorways, so I just wanted to try and make a difference. At the time in Preston there was very little provision. I was seeing all these helpful people but there were no answers so I thought let’s get involved in this and make something happen.

As a trustee I have very little to offer apart from the fact that I like to get alongside those in need and perhaps I do work behind the scenes in dealing with people when they’re struggling or when they want counselling or having trouble. I have actually married two couples from Emmaus which was rather lovely. I really enjoyed that but I tend to get involved in the nitty gritty, personality and counselling roles, for both the staff and trustees.

I also do practical things for the Emmaus Preston community. I’ve cooked the Christmas dinner for instance and last year I did it with Peter. I support all their fundraising efforts and get involved in their away days and social events. It’s very much the Chairman, Chief Exec and other trustees who oversee the day to day running of things. Because I sit on so many boards and committees there is a limit to what you can do but I absolutely believe in it and do know all of the companions.

I think the thing I have enjoyed most about being a trustee is being able to see the difference Emmaus makes to people’s lives. It’s great when they actually get themselves a job, a house or a flat, get married and when they can stand on their own feet again. Some people also chose to move on and then come back to work at Emmaus, either as a paid member of staff or volunteer, and that’s a wonderful thing to see.

People who move and make something of their lives, people who get in touch with their family again, people who feel good about living and themselves – it’s great seeing them make that step. Of course we live on a knife edge because just as you think someone is doing really well they can sometimes go the other way. That happens too and you have to be aware of that as it can break your heart.

I think the biggest challenge has been when we started out and purchased the property. The community building had been an old people’s home but it didn’t meet the current housing standards. We converted it so that it was suitable for our needs. I think the thing what we didn’t realise was how much money we actually need to run the thing. We had moments where we thought we’re going to have to shut but we got support from Emmaus UK and got a team of trustees and staff in place that got us on track.

At the end of October [2017] I will be retiring as Vicar of Preston and stepping down from my role of trustee at Emmaus Preston. I will be sorry to leave everyone, but it’s time to move on. I have extremely fond memories of my time in the city of Preston and of supporting the Emmaus community there.

To any people thinking of becoming a trustee you need to think to yourself - ‘what can I offer; what is my speciality; do I have legal knowledge; am I an accountant; have I got building knowledge; have I worked with homeless people; can I support people; can I work as a team?’

These days being a trustee is not quite like it used to be – it’s not well meaning people with head scarves on just going along, seeing what they can do to help people. You’ve got to be able to offer something and prove to the Board that you are needed. You’ve got to put your money where your mouth is and you’ve got to actually work hard at it, in cooperation with others.