VISITING Lutherans from as far afield as California and Florida are among the recent entries in the guest book at Old Zion Lutheran Church on North Broad Street, and it's not hard to see what attracts them. For one thing, the congregation - established in 1742 - continues to offer a weekly service in German.
Then there's the organ, a 120-year-old beauty with newly built windchests and wind-pipes. And then there's the choir's outstanding lyric soprano soloist, Jaye Green, who also performs with the Bel Canto Lyric Opera Company. Selections from Bach are common in Lutheran churches, but here they go above and beyond.
What's more, with all the trendy restaurants that have opened nearby - Route 6 and Alla Spina are directly across Mt. Vernon Street from Old Zion - a visitor could order a German craft brew after church for a multisensory cultural immersion.
Who we are: Old Zion was among the first Lutheran congregations in North America and one of many founded by Henry M. Muhlenberg, known as "the patriarch of American Lutheranism." (The college is named after him.)
Where we worship: The church is at 628 N. Broad St. Most Sundays, there's an English service at 10 a.m. followed by a German service at 11:15 a.m. On the fourth Sunday of the month, there's a joint service (English and German) with Holy Communion.
The Rev. Daniel Metzger, the pastor, came to Zion in 2009 from Minnesota and grew up in Wisconsin. A Packers fan, "I still bleed green . . . a slightly different shade," he acknowledges.
What we believe: Being traditional, the church hews to the Lutheran Confessions, as set forth in the 16th century. There's a strong emphasis on the Apostles' Creed and on sacraments, the Rev. Metzger says. "Christ is to be at the center of every sermon."
Something that might surprise people: While small (on a good Sunday, about 40 people attend the two services, combined), the congregation is diverse. "It looks just like Philadephia, demographically."
Surprise No. 2: While traditional in its liturgy, the church is current with social media. It's got both a Facebook page and a Twitter account, @OldZionLutheran.
Und drei? Visitors who don't speak German may be surprised to learn that the Rev. Metzger isn't a native speaker, either. His flock is "very patient and kind," he says, never calling him out on grammar bloopers.
Good works: Old Zion collects clothing and food, some of it bound for Project HOME. In addition, the small parish joins forces with others to support missions in the Czech Republic and Kenya.
Big moral issue we're grappling with: To put it in one word, sin. "A very traditional church like ours deals in sin and grace," the Rev. Metzger says. "We don't engage politically as a church."
God is . . . "God the father, God the son, God the holy ghost, and one God."
God moment: "We believe that where the word of God is being preached, the Lord himself is present - and speaking. Every worship service is a God moment to us."
Words of hope: "In Christ we are accepted as God's beloved children. Then we look forward to an etneral life with him. That is our hope. Living the hope means that we want to make the world a better place. . . . We want to share that message."