With New Class Hymn, Freshmen Are “Shining Bright” in Baylor Chapel

class hymn 2018
Joslyn Henderson, second-year theology and church music student and seminarian, sings "Shining Bright" in the class hymn's music video. (Baylor Class Hymn for the Class of 2022/Baylor University)
Aug. 15, 2018

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, 254-710-6275
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by Liesbeth Powers, student newswriter

WACO, Texas (Aug. 15, 2018) – Baylor University's annual freshman hymn, dedicated to the Class of 2022, was unveiled over the summer during New Student Orientation. This year’s hymn, “Shining Bright,” was written by University Chaplain Burt Burleson, D. Min., with music by Truett Seminary students Joslyn Henderson and Ross Tarpley.

“I want to capture, spiritually, what we hope takes place in the lives of students as they make their Baylor journey,” Burleson said. “I want to offer them something that draws them into the community.”

The tradition started when Burleson, in his first year as university chaplain, was listening to a CD with text being sung to the melody of an old hymn. He felt that an original hymn would encourage students from all traditions to join together during chapel.

“It’s not like you see where you’re going necessarily when you start,” Burleson said. “It just hit me that I should write a hymn for the incoming class.”

Burleson wrote text for the first hymn, “I Will Awaken,” in 2008, and Ryan Richardson, Ph.D., associate chaplain and director of worship and chapel for Spiritual Life, added music. The song was introduced to freshmen at Orientation for the first time and the following year, they were encouraged to write another original hymn.

“Sometimes when you look back on something it begins to make sense for you spiritually and theologically in ways you didn’t necessarily know when you started,” Burleson said. “At Orientation, within the first hour of being at Baylor, everybody was singing something together, and that’s not only a very beautiful thing, but there is this bonding experience when people sing together.”

Soundtrack of Baylor Experience

This year’s “Shining Bright” hymn aligns with Baylor's “Where Lights Shine Bright” campaign that spotlights the University’s distinct mission in higher education and tells stories of how students, faculty, staff and alumni are making an impact worldwide.

Henderson, second-year theology and church music student at Baylor's Truett Seminary, led the introduction of “Shining Bright” at Orientation and will lead singing again in August when students come to chapel. Tarpley also is a second-year theology student at Truett and performs with Henderson.

“It’s a gratifying feeling to see the music come to life, especially in the students,” Henderson said. “It’s their song. It’s like the first song on the soundtrack of their Baylor experience.”

The video for “Shining Bright” was recorded in a studio setting and can be found on Baylor University’s Youtube channel.

There was a lot of energy around this year’s hymn, Burleson said. After speaking to Orientation groups, Burleson encourages students who have a choir background to come on stage to lead the hymn.

“I get like 40 of them up on stage to sing it,” Burleson said. “When you’re up there and you hear people singing this brand-new song, you can tell there’s some owning of it and there’s some energy behind it.”

In each hymn, Burleson’s verses lead students through the chapters of their Baylor experience. Particularly for “Shining Bright,” there is a pressing question: Can we be a shining light as an institution?

Burleson works to achieve these goals by better understanding his writing and learning from past hymns. Some of that is rhyming and rhythm, but it also takes a deeper approach.

“There’s some spiritual wisdom that you are trying to get to in writing. It’s not just about finding the word that rhymes,” Burleson said. “Music connects to moments in our lives.”

The hymn will be released on iTunes this August, in addition to the video recording of the hymn in a studio setting. Those present at the Welcome Week worship service Sunday, Aug. 19, also will have the chance to learn the new hymn. “Shining Bright” also will be sung at the staff forum later this year.

“Prayer and worship itself has a role to play in our journey together as an academic Christian institution. When you read strategic plans over the last decades, it is not necessarily the kind of thing you see as a bullet point,” Burleson said. “But all of this is a part of what faith can look like in Baylor’s community.”

Shining Bright

Class Hymn for Students Entering in Fall 2018

Longings of the world and every heart.
Callings on a life to find its part.
Inklings deep within, praying for a sign,
Hoping for the day when we will find...


A city on a hill
A dream beyond the night
A fountain that will fill
A light that’s shining bright

To illumine every sphere
To raise our sights above,
To make the pathway clear
To lead us in God’s love.

Saying yes to life and each new day,
Taking each new step in mercy’s way.
Healing who we are, setting spirits free,
Knowing that we all are called to be...


Holding holy gifts with grateful hands.
Blessing hallowed lives with sacred plans.
Greeting greater truth, waking as we go,
Walking in a world that needs to know...



Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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