Grace Vincent obituary

Other lives: Founder of the Ashram Community, which spread from its beginnings in Rochdale across the UK

My friend and colleague Grace Vincent, who has died aged 83, was committed to the cause of social justice, and her example inspired many others.

With her husband, John, a Methodist minister, Grace founded the Ashram Community in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, in 1967. They were part of a movement that asserted the importance of following the radical example of Jesus in living a Christian life, with the aim of making a significant difference in the world. The community adopted both the eastern concept of building a spiritual resource and the western emphasis on commitment to working among people experiencing poverty.

Grace and John encompassed the very best of modern Christianity, combining vision with day-to-day application. This always took a bottom-up approach, working with people rather than on their behalf, both in community work and in style of worship. Through the Ashram Community, Grace provided support and encouragement to several generations of people living in disadvantaged urban areas.

Grace was born in Kodaikanal, south India, daughter of the Rev Wilfred Stafford and his wife, Dora (nee Johnston), Irish Methodist missionaries. The family remained in India until Grace was 14, when she was sent to school at Methodist college, Belfast. She later studied English literature at Queen’s University Belfast and in 1958 married John Vincent.

From the Rochdale mission, Grace and John moved in 1970 to inner-city Sheffield, where Grace taught English as a second language at local schools. She set up New Roots, a wholefoods “shop for justice” that inspired many, including me and other local students, with its evident call to environmental and social justice.

This stands alongside the inner-city work the Ashram Community established and still sustains, most notably at the Burngreave Ashram in Sheffield, which offers a weekly free meal to all (Grace last took part a week before her death) and where destitute migrants and homeless people are often housed. There are also a number of community houses in the area and those living in them work and volunteer locally. The Ashram Community has spread throughout the UK and continues to be inspired and guided by Grace and John’s vision, writings and dedication.

John and their three children, Christopher, Faith and James, survive her.

Alice McGregor

The GuardianTramp

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