Presiding minister and words of institution

The new seminary graduate who recently began serving our congregation has an unusual approach to consecrating the elements during the Lord's Supper. When it is time for him to read the Words of Institution, he takes a step or two away from the altar (it is built into the chancel wall), turns his back to the elements on the altar table, and reads the Words of Institution to the congregation. He doesn't make the sign of the cross over the cup and paten, or make a simple hand motion to indicate what is being set aside for the Sacrament. One would be hard pressed to know we were celebrating the Sacrament until the distribution begins. Am I wrong in asking him to at least stand next to the elements when reading the Words of Institution instead of turning his back to them?

I contacted Professor James Tiefel of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary regarding the training seminary students receive to consecrate the elements in the Lord’s Supper. Prof. Tiefel serves as Dean of Chapel and teaches worship and homiletics courses.

He explained that when the consecration takes place at a wall altar, the presiding minister is either to take the vessels in his hands and turn toward the people (and make the sign of the cross at “This is my body/This is my blood of the covenant”) or stand at the side of the elements and speak to the people while pointing to the elements, alternately looking at the people and the elements. He demonstrates how this done.

You can certainly speak to your pastor about the instruction he received and his current practice.

You might be interested in an article Prof. Tiefel wrote: “The Orientation of the Presiding Minister to the Altar During the Words of Institution.” While your question addresses a subject that Scripture does not address specifically, the article explains how liturgical actions can help communicate doctrine clearly. This link will take you to that article.