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Let’s LEARN: A Candlelight Vigil Exploring Loss & Spiritual Practice

Let’s LEARN: A Candlelight Vigil Exploring Loss & Spiritual Practice
Let's honor our loved ones, hold space for spiritual grief, and reflect on the possibilities of transformation with Auburn Seminary President Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson and acclaimed memoirist Danté Stewart.

Reimagine has been hosting candlelight vigils throughout the pandemic in order to break down taboos and hold space for all that we've lost. Tonight's program will include a conversation between Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson and Danté Stewart. Rev. Jordan-Simpson serves as president of Auburn, a leadership development and research institute that equips bold and resilient leaders of faith and moral courage to build communities, bridge divides, pursue justice, and heal the world. Danté Stewart is the award-winning author of the debut memoir Shoutin’ in the Fire: An American Epistle and a current student at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

The Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson

The Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson became the president of Auburn Seminary on October 1, 2021. Auburn is a leadership development and research institute that equips bold and resilient leaders of faith and moral courage to build communities, bridge divides, pursue justice, and heal the world. Founded more than 200 years ago by Presbyterians in upstate New York, Auburn is committed to right relationship with a truly multifaith, multiracial movement for justice.

Rev. Jordan-Simpson embraced her call to ministry and service early in life. She preached her first sermon at the age of 17 at House of Prayer Episcopal Church in Newark, NJ, and was ordained by The Concord Baptist Church of Christ, a historic freedom faith congregation in Brooklyn, NY. Her ministry has been grounded in the call to community. Her leadership of New York’s nonprofit organizations have addressed the sacred issues representative of her congregation’s convictions.

She is a graduate of Fisk University (BA); Union Theological Seminary (M.Div), and Drew Theological Seminary (D.Min). She is the President of the Board of American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York and serves on the Board of Directors of FPWA.

Rev. Jordan Simpson and her husband, the Rev. Dr. Gary V. Simpson, live in Brooklyn and are the proud parents of three amazing adult children.

Danté Stewart

Danté Stewart is the author of the debut memoir Shoutin’ in the Fire: An American Epistle, a stirring meditation on being Black and learning to love in a loveless, anti-Black world. The book won Stewart the Georgia Author of the Year award from the Georgia Writer’s Association in 2022. Throughout, Stewart uses his personal experiences as a vehicle to reclaim and reimagine spiritual virtues like rage, resilience, and remembrance—and explores how these virtues might function as a work of love against an unjust, unloving world. This sharply observed journey is an intimate meditation on coming of age in a time of terror. Stewart reveals the profound faith he discovered even after experiencing the violence of the American church: a faith that loves Blackness; speaks truth to pain and trauma; and pursues a truer, realer kind of love than the kind we’re taught, a love that sets us free.

Of Stewart’s debut, Imani Perry laudes, “Standing in a centuries old tradition of spiritual autobiography, Shoutin’ in the Fire is at once a coming of age story and a conversion narrative. From Pentecostal origins, he travels through institutions that hold onto an idea of ‘white Jesus,’ and finally to a spiritual reckoning in which he recognizes Black life to be not only valuable but holy.” While Deesha Philyaw notes, “Some of us joke about Jesus needing better PR than what today’s evangelical church provides. Enter Danté Stewart. With unparalleled candor, vulnerability, and love, Stewart takes us along his personal journey to understanding what it is to be Black, Christian, and American. The church is long overdue for a reckoning with white supremacy, and Stewart has written a brilliant blueprint.”

Stewart’s voice has been featured on CNN, The Washington Post, Christianity Today, Sojourners, The Witness: A Black Christian Collective, Comment Magazine, and more. He received his B.A. in Sociology from Clemson University. He is currently studying at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.

Mangda Sengvanhpheng

Mangda Sengvanhpheng is an artist, contemplative care practitioner, and the Founder of BACII. She is devoted to creating a deeper culture of care, transcending our circumstances, and expanding our experiences through the wisdom of impermanence. Mangda offers supportive services, regenerative programming, and intentional products for individuals, communities, and organizations alike. Her life and death work is guided by her Laotian last name, which means “the light of the full moon.”

BACII is inspired by all of her experiences with loss and life, and specifically the loss of her mother. This life-changing experience of helping her mother through the dying process included being with her in the final moments, washing and dressing her body, arranging a funeral service, and managing a household of tasks that come with death. This experience revealed to her how difficult and isolating grief and loss can be. This led her to reimagine our society’s relationship to the end-of-life as a healthier and more supportive experience.

Driven by these experiences, Mangda became a certified death doula through Going with Grace and an end-of-life volunteer. She then launched BACII as a platform to integrate death into our lives so that we can better support ourselves and those we love.

Additionally she has been immersed in the mystical, creative, and healing arts for over 15 years and is certified and trained in pranayama, asanas, and meditation with Bhooma Chaitanya and Swami Yogeshananda through Aarasha Yoga Vidya Peetham in Kerala, India, Reiki 2 accreditation by Joanna Crespo, NYC, 13th Octave LaHoChi accreditation from Soul Healing, CT, Grief Literacy from Be Here, and Contemplative Care from New York Zen Center.

Mangda was an awarded recipient of Reclamation Ventures grant for under-represented leaders making pathways to addressing grief and loss.

Her work has been featured in publications such as Vogue, NY Mag’s Curbed, Brydie, Chacruna Institute, Svenska Dagbladet (Swedish Wall Street Journal) and more.

Jonathan Lipps

Jonathan is a software engineer and entrepreneur who’s worked primarily on open source software over the course of his career. He studied philosophy and linguistics at Stanford and Oxford, and is currently working on a third master’s degree in theology. Jonathan lives with his son in Vancouver, Canada, and in addition to spending time with his little boy, enjoys writing and producing music, getting outside for all kinds of adventures, and playing nerdy games like D&D with friends. You can find out more about Jonathan at

About Reimagine and the series "From Suffering to Spiritual Growth"

Reimagine's mission is to help all people face adversity, loss, and mortality, and channel the hard parts of life into meaningful action and growth.

We all must process adversity, loss, and mortality.

But there are many pathways forward to transform life’s challenges into meaningful growth. This April, join us for the series “Suffering Into Spirituality” to explore the key question: How might the hard things in life lead to a spiritual deepening?

This is for people of all faiths and no faith—and everyone in between. Together, we will learn about fundamental spiritual concepts and rituals to enhance our personal journeys; we will experience the inspiring stories of leaders who have found spirituality to navigate grief and loss; and, through participatory peer-led breakout sessions, we will be guided by a pastor, a Buddhist monk, and a rabbi to take action in our spiritual growth.

About Auburn

Auburn equips leaders with the organizational skills and spiritual resilience required to create lasting, positive impact in local communities, on the national stage, and around the world. We amplify voices and visions of faith and moral courage. We convene diverse leaders and cross-sector organizations for generative collaboration and multifaith understanding. And we research what’s working — and not — in theological education and social change-making.


Ritual & Ceremony Talk, Panel, & Conversation Writing & Literature Community Gathering Celebration & Remembrance
Spirituality Arts & Entertainment COVID-19 Grief Isolation & Connection