Cornell’s debut memoir recalls her and her husband opening their home while finding their own ways to worship and spread the Gospel.
Born to unconventional parents in London, Cornell grew up with a love of the dramatic arts and surrounded by a world of séances and spiritualism. As a young woman, she rushed into marriage with an equally unconventional young man, only to see it end in disaster. “How could I have been so foolish as to ignore good advice from wise people or even to ignore the truth in my own heart?” she says of that first marriage. But from that moment, she found herself drawn to the church in a new way. Soon, a friend introduced her to handsome Tony, and she was once again caught in a whirlwind engagement, this one with much better results. After Cornell experienced the presence of Jesus in her room, Tony also felt personally moved by the Holy Spirit, leading the two on a search for more charismatic and interdenominational experiences than those provided by the Anglican Church. They extended these more “Spirit-filled ministries” and philosophies into their own home by opening it up to an unmarried pregnant woman, a struggling teenager, and a nurse’s family. Finding fulfillment in such openness, they soon purchased a larger abode, Sunbury House, which they opened to a variety of those in need. “In Sunbury House,” Cornell writes, “supernatural answers to prayer became the norm.” However, it was not until tragedy struck with the death of Cornell’s oldest son, Philip, that Sunbury House began to expand into a full-fledged ministry, taking them abroad and touching more people in need. Just as their particular style of worship and biblical interpretation stirred up controversy with locals accustomed to Anglican teachings, some Christian readers might take issue with Cornell’s experiences and stances. Her belief that her own sin, and perhaps even inviting her parents into her home, led to the death of her son may be a difficult idea to relate to or understand. Additionally, the many divine experiences might seem a bit too easy; God sometimes responds to her questions out loud and plainly, which can feel far-fetched rather than spiritual. Nevertheless, the book’s prose is clear and elegant, and in the end, readers will appreciate the couple’s dedication to their religion and to helping others.
Well-written memoir covering the founding of an unconventional church that might not appeal to the majority of Christian readers.