Every fall, colleges and universities around the country teem with first-year students, who are excited--and maybe a bit anxious--to begin this new chapter in their lives. For the past nine years, Baylor freshmen taking those tentative first steps on campus during summer orientation have been welcomed to Baylor in a very meaningful way--with an original hymn of encouragement written especially for them.
"Music has the ability to inspire us--to change us--to heighten our awareness of ourselves and how we interact with the world," said Dr. Ryan Richardson, associate chaplain and director of worship and chapel. "Melodies have been written and sung for generations upon generations to celebrate, to mourn, to endure hardship, to acknowledge truth and to worship God."
Gift of Grace--written for the Class of 2020 by Richardson and University Chaplain Burt Burleson--provides students with an uplifting message of trusting God and the promises He has made.
"The song expresses some of the hope we have for all Baylor students and the elements we believe to be a part of the Baylor experience. Ultimately, it's about the journey we make as Christians," Burleson said.
The first class hymn, I Will Awaken, was written in 2008. Each year since then at summer orientation, the incoming freshman class has been introduced to a fresh hymn that could be sung together.
"Literally, in their first hour at Baylor, these new students are bound together in a proclamation of our faith," Burleson said.
"The hymn celebrates the beginning of their new journey and trusting their path to the God who will guide them, sustain them and see them transformed," Richardson said.
This summer, Baylor Spiritual Life added a new dimension to the class hymn by producing a video of Gift of Grace. Filmed in Elliston Chapel, the video features lead vocals by Jessica Kemp, a theology graduate student at Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary, and a choir of students, faculty and staff--including Baylor Interim President David E. Garland--with Richardson on piano, Sarah Ewing and Keith Michael on violin and Sam Johnson on cello.
The video of Gift of Grace is available for viewing at baylor.edu/spirituallife (select Class Hymn under the Chapel tab). Each hymn is available for download in the Baylor Class Hymns collection on iTunesU.
The hymns continue to be a special part of the Baylor experience, sung not only at orientation but also during Chapel and as part of worship services across the Baylor campus.
Parents also have been moved deeply by the hymns that share a message of faith in God that carries their students through their time at the university. One Baylor parent remarked after listening to a class hymn: "How blessed and proud we are to be Baylor Bears! Greater things are yet to come."