Cover image for The close : a young woman's first year at seminary
The close : a young woman's first year at seminary
Breyer, Chloe.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
xix, 256 pages : facsimiles ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1240 Lexile.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BV4070.G48 B74 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
BV4070.G48 B74 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Set in the context of the Church Year, The Close is an enthralling account of one young woman's spiritual journey. It is both a personal meditation on faith, in the spirit of Kathleen Norris's Cloister Walk, and a fascinating behind-the-scenes story of a graduate student's first year, in the mode of Scott Turow's One L. Raised in a liberal, interfaith home, Breyer, responding to an inner call to a spiritual vocation, began her training at New York's General Theological Seminary in 1997. She describes her intense immersion in daily prayer, the rigors and rewards of the academic program, and the challenging tension between secular and spiritual that marks her training, including working as a chaplain at Bellevue Hospital. She probes the day-to-day meanings of such profound issues as exaltation, enlightenment, and redemption, illuminating the unique experience of a young person of faith preparing to live and hoping to thrive in a secular modern world.

Author Notes

Chloe Breyer, a graduate of the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in New York City, was ordained a deacon in the Church in June 2000 and is currently affiliated with The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. She was a co-founder of Who Cares, a journal for volunteers and activists. She lives with her husband, Greg Scholl, in New York City

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

When Breyer, a Harvard graduate and the product of a liberal, interfaith, and primarily secular home, decided to study for ordination as an Episcopalian priest, friends and family were equally perplexed. As she analyzes her motivations and the intensely intimate nature of her religious vocation, she also recounts her daily experiences as a first-year seminarian in fascinating detail. Breyer's chronicle of the academic, spiritual, and practical aspects of her priestly training is underscored by the fact that she is a woman successfully functioning in a traditionally male domain. Willing to challenge herself both personally and theologically, she struggles to define the meaning of her commitment to God, the church, and others. An inspirational journey of faith. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Breyer entered General Theological Seminary three years ago. Since then, she has been questioned by high school friends, Harvard roommates and strangers on airplanes about why she wants to become an Episcopal priest. She allows that the question is not without merit; she was an ace student with a passion for social justice, raised by a secular Jewish dad (Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer) and an English, Anglican mom. But, eschewing more lucrative fields like the law, the Harvard alumna decided that the Episcopal priesthood was a great vehicle to pursue an activism about which she is passionate (she's a vegetarian, and was committed to nuclear disarmament as a kid). This memoir of Breyer's first year at seminary alternately engages and bores. She worked at a New York hospital while taking classes, and her salty and humorous discussions of the trials and tribulations of hospital chaplaincyÄlike giving communion to a Jewish patientÄare unforgettable. However, her attempts to reflect on more narrowly religious themes often fail. Predictably, the book is structured according to the church calendar (like recent spiritual memoirs by Frederica Mathewes-Green, Nora Gallagher and others), but Breyer's musings on the meaning of Advent and Lent read like notes she took in class and hastily crammed into her book. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The close here refers to a sacred place and the religious community that occupies it. In this memoir, Breyer (founder of the community-activist publication Who Cares) takes us to her close, the General Theological Seminary in New York City, a world of spiritual and intellectual training in which she immerses herself. In a personal, confessional style, she narrates her daily frustrations and struggles over the course of a year, as she adopts a lifestyle of prescribed daily prayer and rigid ritual while responding and ministering to the diseased and disenfranchised. Her work as a chaplain at Bellevue Hospital is especially poignant. There are no epiphanies or miraculous calls, no special incidents that yank her out of the secular and into the religious. Instead, she quietly explains in this meditation on faith how she is responding to the call for the spiritual life. Of interest to anyone concerned with spiritual issues, this book will be especially useful for those thinking of entering a life among the contemplative and socially active. Recommended for public libraries."Glenn Masuchika, Chaminade Univ. Lib., Honolulu (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

In The Close, Chloe Breyer, a deacon at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, chronicles her first year at General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in New York City. Like Ari Goldman's The Search for God at Harvard (1991), Breyer's accessible, provocative narrative gives readers a good look at the hidden, frequently misunderstood world inside seminary walls. It also provides a moving account of one young woman's spiritual pilgrimage in the heart of New York City on the eve of the new millennium. Like the writings of Kathleen Norris, to whom Breyer is certain to be compared, Breyer's experiences and observations give voice to a widespread spiritual hunger in the contemporary US, even among those who worship within traditional Christian denominations. Breyer suggests that perhaps the best way to slake the hunger is to tear down the false boundaries between the church and the world, work and worship, the past and the present. By the end of the narrative, readers understand the full import of Breyer's personal revelation: "ministry came easier when I stopped trying so hard to be a priest." General readers and practitioners; all student levels. D. Campbell; Colby College

Table of Contents

Introduction: Coming into the Kingdomp. xi
Adventp. 1
Christmasp. 37
Epiphanyp. 61
Lentp. 111
Easterp. 145
Pentecostp. 191
Acknowledgmentsp. 257