Mary Nelson is president emeritus of Bethel New Life, a faith-based community development corporation on the West Side of Chicago. She has served on the board and as Interim Executive Director for the Parliament of the World’s Religions for the last four years. She is also the former chair of the board of Sojourners.

Posts By This Author

The Mother Who Hated Nukes and Loved the Lord

by Mary Nelson 03-15-2016

“Why did you, American Mother of the Year, commit civil disobedience in front of the Trident nuclear submarine?” a reporter asked the white haired, 78-year-old woman as she left the courthouse.

The woman, accused of being in a little boat blocking a nuclear submarine, answered without a moment’s hesitation.

“I did it for the children of the world,” she said.

Extremes Stretch One’s Faith, Then Leave Us With Hope

by Mary Nelson 11-13-2013
Ron and Joe / Shutterstock

The reminder of Advent is the sure sense of hope. Ron and Joe / Shutterstock

“Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work’s in vain, but then the Holy Spirit, revives my soul again.”

So where does this revival come? Often when we looked at a dilapidated building in our community, the revival comes with the eyes to see the possibilities of rehabbing, of new uses. The revival comes in community, in coming together to take action. There is nothing like some music and food, too, to bind us together.

Health-Care Reform is a Life and Death Issue

by Mary Nelson 07-27-2009
We need health-care reform to ensure that others aren't caught in the web of inconsistent mental health care and the inability to get needed medicine.

Push, not Protest, for a Budget with Better Priorities

by Mary Nelson 03-03-2009
Several years ago over 100 of us were arrested for blocking a Capital building entrance and protesting tax cuts for the 5 percent wealthiest people and program cuts from WIC, food stamps, college a

Hope and Action in Hard Times

by Mary Nelson 02-26-2009

In these times of foreclosures, tight budgets, and shrinking funds, community builders feel like Jesus' disciples with five loaves and two fishes and thousands to feed. During an earlier time before I retired from Bethel New Life, I reflected on doing more with less, and share this now.

Remembering Millard Fuller

by Mary Nelson 02-04-2009
Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity, died yesterday.

Lift Every Voice

by Mary Nelson 01-27-2009
I was there at the Lincoln Memorial Opening Inaugural Event, the Inauguration

Chicago Sit-in Victory: 'Yes We Can'

by Mary Nelson 12-11-2008

Hard Times

by Mary Nelson 12-05-2008

A Different Economic Measure: Quality of Life and an Economic Bill of Rights

by Mary Nelson 12-01-2008

Our Children's 'Audacity of Hope'

by Mary Nelson 11-14-2008
"I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord

Campaign Community Organizers as the Foundation for Future Change

by Mary Nelson 11-11-2008
As a volunteer in the Obama campaign, I was constantly amazed at my fellow volunteers of all ages, races, and economic groups.

Post-racial? No, Not Yet -- So Let's Get to Work

by Mary Nelson 11-05-2008
I shed tears last night as I stood with thousands in Chicago's Grant Park cheering our new President-elect Obama, contrasting that with crowds' hatred and bigotry I experiences more than 40 years a

Humpty Dumpty Falls off Wall Street

by Mary Nelson 10-07-2008

Wall Street is now in shambles, worldwide confidence is eroded, the stock market is in free-fall, and many people are losing homes and jobs. Many had put all their confidence in the freedom-from-regulation marketplace and its self-correcting actions.

In Money We Trust

by Mary Nelson 09-23-2008

The Wall Street debacle reminds me of the fall of Babylon

New Study on Abortion Reduction

by Mary Nelson 09-04-2008

The heated abortion debate has up to this time been focused on legal measures. A new study commissioned by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good concludes that government social spending and economic conditions do more to reduce abortions than legal strategies such as parental consent laws.

Joseph Wright (Penn State University) and Michael Bailey's (Georgetown University) examined the dramatic drop in [...]

Don't Shoot!

by Mary Nelson 06-30-2008

"Don't shoot -- I want to grow up," read the protest sign an 11-year-old boy held in the wake of 30-plus shootings of Chicago schoolchildren this school year. The Supreme Court's recent assertion of the individual's right to own a gun for self-defense stands in sharp contrast to the anguished pleas of the father of one of the schoolchildren to stop the tragic gun deaths in our community, and to get rid of the guns so available on our streets. His pleas reminded me of Jeremiah's [...]

A Better Answer to High Fuel Prices

by Mary Nelson 04-30-2008

Recently, both President Bush and an oil company spokesperson, speaking to the rising gas prices, pushed for building more refineries and upping the production of oil here in the States. No mention of exorbitant oil company profits. No mention of our need to drastically reduce use of cars and gasoline, to change lifestyles. No mention of the working poor who are stuck without public transportation to jobs remote from their inner-city or inner-ring suburban homes.

Reducing dependence [...]

Fighting Recidivism with Resurrection

by Mary Nelson 03-25-2008

On Easter Sunday sermons about new life and transformation, resurrection and redemption abound. At our church we celebrated the baptism of a young man living in a half way house and doing work-release in our community. The genuine hugs and welcome from the mostly black congregation for this young white man were warm and genuine. One church member sponsors work release, another church member picks up the four to five who come for events and church, and this young man felt touched by God in [...]

The Cost of Killing

by Mary Nelson 03-12-2008

The Cost of War

In Ramah, a voice is heard, crying and weeping loudly. Rachel mourns for her children and refuses to be comforted, because they are dead. Jeremiah 31:15

Last week a spate of four deaths in our Chicago high schools was blamed on gangs and guns. Last year, the public high [...]