Pastor Vajda

The only church I ever attended (regularly) was the Griffith Lutheran Church, 1000 N. Broad Street, Griffith, Indiana.

It was a long time ago: when we lived in Gary, in the trailer park on Ridge Road. The church is just a few miles away: west on Ridge Road, south on Broad Street, it’s on the right.

Going to church wasn’t my idea. I was only five; what five-year-old ever wanted to go to church? No, Mike & I went to church because our mother went to church. (Why did she go to church? I don’t know. I never thought to ask.)

I vaguely recall Sunday School, singing hymns, and shaking Pastor Vajda’s hand after the service. He towered over me, took my small hand in his enormous hand, and spoke a few words in a deep voice.

I had the notion this evening to look up Pastor Vajda, find out whatever became of him. I was sure he’d be easy to find; how many Lutheran pastors named Vajda could there be in northwest Indiana?

More than you might think – and spread out over at least three generations. One of them turns out to be a famous composer of hymns.

I think, but have no way to know for certain, that the Pastor Vajda I remember was Ludovit Vajda, who died sometime in the early 2000s. I must investigate further. (Perhaps a road trip to Gary is in order, once the weather improves.)

My researches – i.e., quality time with Google – turned up a rather disturbing newspaper excerpt from the Gary Post-Tribune for Saturday, January 14, 1989:

$115,000 JUDGMENT TO BE APPEALED BY AREA CHURCH

The Griffith Lutheran Church will appeal a $115,000 judgment stemming from incidents involving a former pastor who took sexually provocative pictures of two young girls, attorney Harry Jennings said Friday. A jury awarded damages Thursday against the church, retired Pastor Ludovit Vajda and Pastor William Steinke.

There’s more, but it’s behind a paywall.

The ambiguity is maddening. What happened? Who did what, to whom? Were the pastors accused of specific misbehavior, or were they named in the suit merely because they were in charge?